The Bucs' scout team defense is striving to make life difficult for Tampa Bay's offense in practice
From the 10-yard line, Shaun King dropped back to pass, looked over the middle and found WR Keyshawn Johnson. King's pass to Johnson in the back of the end zone looked very similar to the one that scored Tampa Bay's final touchdown last Sunday in August, except the backdrop was a giant, gray windscreen instead of bleachers full of Falcon and Buccaneer fans.
Oh, and there was also the matter of Floyd Young.
Young was trailing Johnson on the play, and giving away about six inches in height, but the backup cornerback kicked in just enough speed to bat the pass away at the last moment, to Johnson's obvious chagrin.
That was the final play of the two-minute drill for the Bucs' first-string offense on Friday afternoon, and it got the entire scout team defense jumping, though that doesn't take much these days. With boisterous personalities such as Dexter Jackson and Nate Webster leading the charge, the Bucs' 'look team,' as Head Coach Tony Dungy calls it, has been injecting energy into practice each week, particularly at the end.
"That seems to be their Friday routine," said Dungy. "As we get to our goal-line period, they want to keep the offense out of there, but overall, I thought it was good. The offense did well."
The scout team has looked to Thursdays and Fridays for their main competition fix each week because the team's starting unit has remained remarkably healthy this season. It appears as if that trend will continue this weekend. There was some concern over the health of DE Chidi Ahanotu's left knee, which kept him out of practice on Thursday, but those worries were mostly alleviated on Friday.
"Chidi, I think, is going to be fine," said Dungy. "He's very similar to how Warren was last week, where he's just got a little fluid in there. There doesn't seem to be any structural damage, so we think he's going to be fine on Sunday. He did practice (today) and did fine, made it through with no problems."
QB Shaun King also practiced on Friday despite the lingering effects of his bout with tonsillitis. He has had to fight to maintain his energy level in recent days but hasn't missed any of the team's workouts, as it was originally thought he would. After Friday's practice, which was mercifully cooler than Thursday's due to a cloud cover and a light breeze, Dungy repeated his feeling that King would be good to go by Sunday.
"He kept his voice down today, trying not to use those muscles, but I think he's going to be fine, too," said Dungy.
The only Buccaneer whose condition worsened during the week was rookie S David Gibson. Gibson started the week on the team's injury report as probable due to a left quad strain, but was downgraded to doubtful on Friday when he couldn't make it through the individual portion of practice.
You might as well consider Gibson out, as a matter of fact, as he was one of four Buccaneers placed on Friday's inactive list. He was the only one of the four to be on the list for injury reasons.
The other three Friday inactives for Tampa Bay were T DeMarcus Curry, WR Andre Hastings and TE Todd Yoder.
A couple of Buccaneers reached personal milestones last Sunday in Atlanta that also happened to be significant moments in the team's record book. TE Dave Moore scored the game's first touchdown and his third of the season on a one-yard pass from King in the first quarter. That happened to be the 20th touchdown of Moore's NFL career, a significant moment for a player who, at one time, was valued more for his long-snapping abilities than his contributions at tight end.
"I enjoy the fact that I can look back and say that I got in the end zone 20 times," said Moore. "As far as what it does in the overall scheme of things, hopefully it will help us win games. It's a milestone, just like anything else. However, it's just a statistic, so we'll have to leave it at that."
Since joining the team in 1992, Moore has steadily progressed from a player deep down the depth chart to a versatile talent who has started Tampa Bay's last 42 contests. He is one of the team's steadiest performers and the fifth-leading collector of TD receptions in Buccaneer history.
So it is fitting that Moore's catch also happened to be the 400th touchdown reception in team history. Dungy, passing by as this fact was passed on to Moore in the One Buc Place hallways, let out a low whistle and lauded his tight end for taking his place in team history. The two shared a laugh, but it is a valid point that Moore, who has now had at least three TD catches for five straight years, owns a significant place in the team's record book.
"Back when I was doing a whole lot of special teams, I was happy to get my first (touchdown) against Denver (in 1993)," said Moore. "I wasn't sure how many opportunities I was going to get after that. I'm happy with the fact, and proud that I've got 20."
DT James Cannida is only at the beginning of his NFL journey, and on Sunday he celebrated his first career sack when he got to Chandler midway through the second period. It was the middle takedown in a string of three consecutive sacks for the Buccaneer defense. It was also the 800th sack in the history of the franchise.
"Everybody else on the line is getting sacks so I just wanted to get into the act," said Cannida. "It felt good to finally get one."
Cannida was pleased to have notched a milestone sack on a list that includes such contributors as Lee Roy Selmon, David Logan and Warren Sapp, but he was more concerned with how the play affected the game in Atlanta.
"Well, they say it's tough to get two in a row, and we got him three times," said Cannida. "And it came at an important time of the game, so I think it was really a big part in the win. It seemed to give us the momentum back."