Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Will Trent Dilfer’s unexpectedly swift return to the starting lineup be reflected in his approach?


QB Trent Dilfer makes a swift return to the lineup


By now, everyone has heard that recently-benched QB Trent Dilfer is back under center tomorrow. And, by now, most everyone has weighed in with their opinion on what that means for the Bucs' longtime starter.

"I've heard a lot of comments," said Dilfer. "'There's no pressure now.' 'He's got nothing to lose.' I don't buy it. The pressure I've always put on myself is to do what I have to do to help this team win. That will be no different tomorrow."

'Tomorrow' is the Bucs' game at New Orleans, the eighth chapter in a season that has begun as somewhat of a disappointment. The 3-4 Buccaneers need a victory to get back to .500 and hopefully back into the NFC playoff chase. They will have to do it without their newly anointed quarterback starter, Eric Zeier, who is suffering from a rib cage injury. Zeier played the entire game in Detroit last Sunday, snapping Dilfer's 70-game starts streak, but to hear some other Buccaneers tell it, start number one of the new streak could be a totally different ballgame for the former starter.

"He's as relaxed and confident as I've ever seen him," said T Jerry Wunsch. "He has a lot of confidence in himself. He's been having a lot of fun this week, joking around. I think he's going to come out with a lot of fire this week and just let it loose."

"I've heard that said a couple of times," said Dilfer. "If that's what people want to think, that's great. I never lost my confidence. What I did see when I was sat down was that there wasn't a lot of enthusiasm on the team right now. I thought I could help us by bringing a looseness to practice. I want us to have fun. That's hard to do when you're losing, but I've tried hard."

Zeier performed reasonably well in his first start for the Buccaneers, completing 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. It was an efficient performance for a quarterback who hadn't seen the field in seven weeks, and the Tampa Bay coaching staff was expecting an even better outing for Zeier with a week of action under his belt. Unfortunately, an injury suffered during one of the many times he was dropped to the turf against the Lions refused to get better during the week.

That opened the door for Dilfer, who could complicate matters by performing well.

"I think Trent will do a good job," said Dungy. "If he does, we'll have to evaluate it again and see what happens. I think it (being replaced) was good for him, though I'm sure he won't agree. He has taken the right approach, thinking 'Boy, if I ever get another shot, I'm going to prove the coach wrong.' And I hope he does."

Dilfer may do so by opening up the Bucs' offense a little bit. Tampa Bay has had difficulty eating up big chunks of yardage with long plays, but Dilfer is determined to try again. "I'm disappointed in myself that I've played conservatively at times," he said. "When you play conservatively and don't execute, you look really bad."

That led to perhaps Dilfer's most telling statement on Saturday evening. "You have to have the freedom to fail," he said, "and I have that now."

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