Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Game Day Spotlight: Joey Galloway

Don’t tell the Bucs’ leading receiver this, but his numbers through seven games are phenomenal, and a big reason his team is 5-2 heading into Sunday’s showdown with the Panthers

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WR Joey Galloway has 11 touchdowns in his last 12 games, and many of them involved long runs after the catch

As a public service announcement, this story has been rated "NJ."

Now, you won't run across sensitive material on Buccaneers.com very often, but in this case a certain segment of the population needs to be warned in advance, to avoid possible discomfort from the following text.

So here's our warning: This story is rated "NJ" because it is not fit for the eyes of the following people: Anyone named Joey Galloway.

That quite obviously includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver by the same name. The trouble spot? Numbers. This page has 'em and Galloway doesn't want to see 'em. So if your name is Joey Galloway, please stop reading right now.

For the rest of us (with the possible exception of a defensive coordinator or two), the numbers are a thing of beauty. Galloway's totals through seven games include 39 receptions for 648 yards and five touchdowns, all team highs. At his current pace, Galloway would finish the 16-game season with 89 catches for 1,481 yards and 11 touchdowns.

That catch total would not be a new Buccaneer record – Keyshawn Johnson owns that at 106 – but the yardage total would, besting the 1,422 put up by Mark Carrier in 1989. In a way, those two facts speak even more highly of Galloway; he tends to do more with each catch than most NFL receivers. In fact, among the top 20 pass-catchers in the NFL, Galloway's 16.6 yards per reception is second only to the 18.5-yard mark put up by new Redskin smurf Santana Moss.

Galloway's numbers might make him the Buccaneers' MVP at this moment, but they also threaten to make him uncomfortable. Try to discuss the numerical specifics with the man responsible for them and he'll stonewall you. He'll put his hands over his ears. He might even leave the room, though in a polite manner.

This is not an exaggeration. Galloway, who remains one of the league's fastest players at 33 years old, even claimed on Wednesday he didn't know the number of his age. We'll retain a little skepticism on that one, but the fact is this prolific Buccaneer doesn't want to be distracted by his statistics. He even deflects the question of whether this would be a career year for him, in his 11th NFL campaign (answer: it would, except for the touchdowns).

"It could be, but I don't even know what a career season is for me right now," said Galloway. "I'm not going to talk numbers. Really, I just want to talk wins."

The numbers are real, but so is Galloway. This stat-phobic approach is no front; he really cares much more about the team's fortunes. If he needs to feel good about a big play, like the 78-yard touchdown he created out of a short pass last Sunday in San Francisco, he'll get that from the reaction of his teammates when he gets to the bench.

"The feedback on the sideline is really important," said Galloway. "You kind of get a feel that, okay, if you make a play it electrifies your teammates, and that's what's important. When I come off the sideline and the defense, offense, all the guys are like, 'Yeah, nice play,' that's exciting because then you know that it just ups the level of what's going on."

Still, we've warned Galloway to avoid this story because we just can't stay away from the numbers. In just the last month, the muscular, 5-11 receiver has recorded two of the 10 longest pass receptions in franchise history. In addition to his 78-yarder at San Francisco, he went 80 yards for the game-winning score against Detroit on October 2.

The two plays were nothing alike, and that to speaks to Galloway's brilliance this year. The play against the 49ers was a simple hitch on which he caught the ball in front of two defenders and simply used his speed to run around and by them. The touchdown against Detroit was a post in which he got on the safeties so fast that he was by them as he caught the ball.

Head Coach Jon Gruden got the speedy Galloway in the spring of 2004 in a trade for Keyshawn Johnson and quickly decided that the former Cowboy and Seahawk could run any route. Galloway's speed could be used for repetitive up-field clear-outs and the occasional bomb, but it could also turn more innocent plays into sudden danger. Galloway, who has over 500 career catches, feels comfortable with any play call.

"He's been in the league a long time and he hasn't lost his legs," said cornerback Brian Kelly, an appreciative defensive teammate. "So he's got a combination of both now, playing out there for so long, seeing so many different coverages, playing against a lot of defensive backs. He knows what to do and when to do it, but he's still got his legs to take advantage of that."

That's the part that has stunned his Buccaneer teammates, that sprinter's speed that is supposed to desert an NFL player in his mid-30s, especially one who has had a season-ending knee injury and a serious groin tear within the last five years. Galloway's big 2005 season has rekindled the talk that has swirled around him since he first entered the NFL as a first-round pick of the Seahawks in 1995, that he might be the fastest man in the league.

"I wouldn't argue that watching that play against San Francisco," said Kelly. "Obviously, you get up in your thirties, your mid-thirties where he's at, you lose a little bit of your step. But he hasn't lost anything. He's still rolling."

Credit the career longevity to Galloway's intense training regimen, something he has followed with little change since his Ohio State days. When the Bucs became disenchanted with Johnson in 2003, they were thrilled to work out the swap with the Cowboys, believing Galloway to still have his game-changing legs. He suffered his groin injury less than half a game into his Buccaneer career, though, and didn't really get rolling in Gruden's offense until the last five games of last season. Since then, he has basically had a 1,000-yard season and scored 11 touchdowns (including one on a punt return) in 12 games.

"He's just an all-around professional," said quarterback Chris Simms. "On and off the field he takes care of his body, works hard. He loves the game of football. It's nothing surprising to anybody in our locker room. Even last year when we went into the season, we knew he was going to blow up. He got a little unlucky and he got hurt and had to deal with his groin injury and things like that. But to people we play in the league, everybody knows Joey Galloway is a star and a force to be reckoned with."

Credit this season's continued health to the Bucs' plan to keep him fit for the long haul. Citing the way a world-class sprinter might prepare for a track meet, Gruden worked out a training camp system in which Galloway would sit out roughly every other practice but go hard when he was on the field. The Bucs have carried that into the regular season, too, letting Galloway take it easy on many Wednesdays before gradually ramping it up as the week progresses.

"I think that's the difference, to be honest with you," said Galloway. "I worked out the same, came in prepared the same, and the plan to take it a little easier in camp, a little easier during the week of practice has worked out pretty good. Really, that's the only change.

"I feel good. We had a plan coming in that everybody knew about and it's worked out so far. Right now I feel terrific."

The Bucs are feeling pretty good about Galloway, too. Gruden has about as much love for statistics as his receiver does, and the rest of the team is more concerned about points on the scoreboard than marks in Galloway's receiving column. Still, the Bucs know that it is quite often Galloway's catches and yards – however many they may be – that are most often leading the offense to six points.

And that's a number even Galloway can love.

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