If he can play on Monday, WR Jacquez Green might be in the mix for punt return duties
Though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are fairly pleased with the state of their weekly injury report, it was not quite as good at the end of Friday as it was when the day began.
During a goal-line set, rookie safety John Howell leaped at the back of the end zone to knock down a pass and came down on a teammates foot, causing his right ankle to roll. The result was a sprain that has endangered Howell's chances of playing Monday in St. Louis. He has been added to the official injury report as 'questionable.'
Howell is the team's primary backup to Dexter Jackson at free safety. He started the Pittsburgh game on October 21 while Jackson was injured and has totaled 18 tackles, two for loss, this season. Howell also plays extensively on special teams and has five kick-coverage stops.
Howell was one of three players added to Tampa Bay's injury report on Friday. WR Keyshawn Johnson, who is working to overcome a contusion to the ribs, is not likely to practice on Saturday but should be able to play on Monday. He goes on the report as probable. TE Dave Moore was also added to the list with left hip flexor strain but is expected to be in uniform Monday, also.
Even after those late-week addition, the Bucs' injury report is relatively lean. WR Karl Williams has been downgraded from 'doubtful' to 'out' due to a hip pointer and is the only Buc certain not to play on Monday. However, a receiver replacement may be standing by as veteran Jacquez Green has a chance to return after missing the last four weeks with groin and abdominal strains.
"He should be (able to play)," said Head Coach Tony Dungy of Green. "If he doesn't have a setback he should be ready to go, and so far he's done great this week."
Dungy wasn't the only NFL head coach haunting the Bucs' facility on Friday.
New York Jets head man Herman Edwards was at One Buccaneer Place, stopping by his old digs during a trip home for the Thanksgiving weekend. The 7-3 Jets are on a bye week, making Edwards' visit possible.
Edwards' Jets have moved into first place in the AFC East by winning four in a row, including last weekend's now-common dismissal of the Miami Dolphins. New York has beaten Miami eight straight times.
The Jets' most recent win over the Dolphins was in Miami, but a road win is no cause for surprise in Edwards' locker room. The Jets are only 2-3 at home this year, but an amazing 5-0 on the road. Dungy might hope that some of that road magic will wear off on his team as they head to St. Louis for Monday's game.
"We had some guest coaching today from Herm," said Dungy. "They're winning, winning on the road. He talked to us a little bit on how to do that. It was good to see him, and he's doing great."
Green could return in time to take on two roles. With Karl Williams almost sure to miss Monday's game, the team will be looking for a new punt returner. Though Reidel Anthony handled those duties after Williams' injury last Sunday, Green could be in the mix on punt returns against the Rams.
He certainly has experience.
On September 13, 1998, in just the second game of Green's NFL career, he took a punt 95 yards for a touchdown at Green Bay, the longest return in team history and the longest score of any kind before Shelton Quarles' 98-yard interception return this season against Green Bay (October 7).
That return and a few others have Green ranked fourth in Buc history in punt return yardage (658), a few places behind Williams' record mark of 1,622. Green's career mark of 12.0 yards per return on 55 runbacks is the highest in team annals among all players with five or more chances.
On Wednesday, it was mostly Anthony and Green taking turns during punt return drills. Those two are not the only options for Dungy, however.
"We're looking at a couple of different things," he said. "Reidel Anthony, Aaron Stecker, Frank Murphy depending on the situation. Probably, Reidel I would think for the most part."