WR Joey Galloway will have to get back into full-team drills before he has a realistic shot at returning to game action...but that could happen soon
There were some hopeful steps taken in Joey Galloway's return from a foot injury on Thursday. Hopeful, those steps were, because they actually took place on the practice field.
Sidelined since getting hurt in Week Two against Atlanta, Galloway rejoined his team on the grass on Thursday, albeit in a restricted fashion, for the first time since suffering that injury.
"He's just limited, but he did show up and so some individual [drills]," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "We're pleased to have him out there."
Standing in front of his locker a few hours before Thursday's practice, Galloway discussed his injury status, his return to practice, and his time frame for potentially getting back into the mix on game day.
"I am cutting and actually catching some balls today," Galloway said. "We are on the road to playing soon. I will go do some things [at practice] and see what happens."
Galloway was injured on a bit of a freak play, as running back Warrick Dunn landed on his foot from behind while the receiver was blocking for a run. Stressing that the injury was a bit of bad luck and not a product of old age, the 36-year-old Galloway joked that everyone takes longer to recover as they mature.
"I'm only 28, so I don't think that age plays a part in that," Galloway said with a grin. "It's one of those 'in the wrong place at the wrong time' kind of things. A running back rolls on my foot – that would happen to me if I was 21. It just happened and it's something I have to deal with. It makes it tough to sit by and not play football for such a long time, but we are close and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
"Your body doesn't recover as fast when you go to bed at night when you get to be 28. It doesn't matter whether it's an injury or if you're not injured, the body does its own thing when you get a little older. I don't think that this situation would be any different as far as being 28 vs. 21."
Jokes aside – Galloway is really about eight years senior of his upper estimate – one thing that hasn't diminished as Galloway has gotten older is his competitive fire, and being forced to watch from the sidelines has only made him more excited to return to action.
"It's difficult, tough to watch, especially when you see so many of the teams we've played play some man-to-man coverage, some things that we don't see a lot of," Galloway said. "So that's tougher, to see the offense go through some struggles like we have the last couple weeks and not be there to help. I don't, by any stretch of the imagination, want to say that I would have changed those games, but I do my part in this offense and right now I'm not there to do that. That's tough to have to sit by and watch."
As his foot continues to heal, Galloway's payoff could be coming sooner rather than later.
"We're on the right road and we'll see what happens this week," Galloway said. "There's always a chance [I could play Sunday]. There was a chance last Sunday and there was a chance the Sunday before that. There's always a chance."
According to Gruden, those chances won't rise to a hopeful level until Galloway does more on the practice field than he did Thursday. Both the receiver and the team hope that next step comes soon.
"Let's be honest – you've got to be able to practice," said Gruden. "You've got to be able to go out there and prove to yourself and everyone that you have the ability to play a 60-minute game. We're happy to have him back. It's just the start, I think, in hopefully what will be a quick return."
In addition to Galloway, starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud also returned to practice in a limited fashion after not working out on Thursday. Gruden said Ruud did very little on Thursday but that the fourth-year veteran intends to try his injured knee out more extensively on Friday.
Fullback B.J. Askew (hamstring) and quarterback Brian Griese (elbow) were held out for the second consecutive day. Five others who were either sidelined or limited on Wednesday were able to practice without limits on Thursday: linebacker Derrick Brooks (hamstring), tight end John Gilmore (illness), center/guard Sean Mahan (abdomen), safety Sabby Piscitelli (elbow) and running back Warrick Dunn (scheduled rest).
Garcia Getting His Game Back
Gruden saw something in Jeff Garcia on Thursday that made him hopeful for the quarterback's improved performance for the rest of the season. He saw Jeff Garcia playing like Jeff Garcia.
"He had a good practice today," said Gruden. "You've got to witness it. There's a certain functional ability that he has between the tackles, a creative element that he has. When he has it, you can tell he has it. And he had it today and I was really, really pleased with how he performed out there."
With Griese sitting out a second straight day and the status of his throwing elbow still uncertain, it is looking more and more likely that Garcia will return to the starting lineup on Sunday against Carolina.
Last year, his first with the Buccaneers, Garcia earned a Pro Bowl nod after completing 63.9% of his passes, throwing 13 touchdowns against just four interceptions and posting a passer rating of 94.6. He led Tampa Bay to a division title and was both accurate in the pocket and creative when on the run.
Gruden didn't believe he was getting that sort of performance out of Garcia when the season began, following a string of injuries that had kept the veteran passer off the practice field. In a season-opening loss at New Orleans, Garcia completed 24 of 41 passes for 221 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The coaching staff felt as if Garcia had missed some open men and failed to find several others in his progressions.
After relieving Griese in the second half in Denver on Sunday, Garcia completed 13 of 17 passes and made several plays of the variety he was known for in 2007. For instance, he hit Ike Hilliard on a seven-yard touchdown pass after sliding left out of the pocket and going through a series of reads.
Gruden thought Garcia's performance in Denver was solid. Apparently, Garcia was even better on Thursday, which is a good sign for the Buccaneers.
Choosing to Defer
The NFL instituted a new rule for the game-opening coin flip this season, mirroring the NCAA set-up that allows the team that wins the flip to defer its decision to the second half.
Previously, the flip-winning team in the NFL could only choose ball or the direction they wished their offense to go in the first quarter. The losing team would then get to choose in the second half. The winning team virtually always took the ball, giving the losing team possession to start the third quarter.
Now, if an NFL team wins the flip it can defer, which means the losing team makes the immediate choice. That allows the winning team the option of getting the ball first to start the second half.
The Buccaneers have used that option both times they have won the opening toss in the regular season, including last Sunday in Denver. Gruden explained why the Buccaneers have made use of the new option.
"I'll just say at times I use hunch. I do like the tradition of – it's pretty well-established in college football – if you win the toss you basically keep the ball for the second half. But you take everything into account. We have a very good defensive team. You have an opportunity to get a quick stop and create field position."
It is probably nothing more than a statistical oddity, with little data so far, but the Buccaneers are 0-2 when they've won the coin toss this year and 3-0 when they've lost it. The Bucs' opponents have not all chosen to defer. Still, the Bucs are likely to use the option again, if the situation seems right.
"It hasn't worked out all the time," said Gruden. "I'm very confident in both sides of the ball but I'm kind of a traditionalist, I guess. I came up in college football and unfortunately that sometimes registers with me. I do put some thought into that – weather conditions, the opponent we're playing. Again, I'm really confident in our defense and sometimes I try to create some field position with the assumption that maybe we can get a three-and-out."