Second-year FB Byron Storer will draw his first start of the season, as FB B.J. Askew is one of the six Bucs and Packers starters out today due to injury
Joey Galloway versus Al Harris – it could have been one of the key matchups unfolding on the Raymond James Stadium turf today. Instead, neither Galloway nor Harris will play, and the game could turn on the battle between Antonio Bryant and Charles Woodson.
Galloway and Harris are two of the six starters for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers, combined, who won't play today due to injuries. Galloway will miss his second straight game due to a foot injury and Harris is likely out for at least a month after injuring his spleen a week ago.
The Buccaneers' starting lineup will also be without fullback B.J. Askew (hamstring) and guard Davin Joseph (foot). Askew was injured a week ago in the Bucs' overtime win in Chicago; Joseph hasn't played since the second week of the preseason. The Bucs had hoped their rising star at right guard would be able to return this week, but after a good practice on Wednesday Joseph struggled the rest of the week and was held out of Friday's final workout.
Thus, rookie Jeremy Zuttah will make his sixth consecutive start at right guard, the last four in the regular season. Second-year man Byron Storer will assume Askew's starting spot at fullback. At receiver, Tampa Bay will tweak its approach from a week ago, again moving Bryant to Galloway's split end spot but this time elevating Michael Clayton to the starting flanker position. Bryant and Clayton combined for 15 catches and 192 yards against the Bears during Brian Griese's 67-pass extravaganza.
Bryant wasn't on the midweek injury report, but Woodson was, with a toe ailment. In fact, all four of the Packers' starters in the secondary were question marks when the week began, and only half of them were able to suit up for today's game. Also out is strong safety Atari Bigby, who has a hamstring injury. Free safety Nick Collins is going to play despite a back ailment.
Tramon Williams and Aaron Rouse will start in place of Harris and Bigby, respectively. The Packers will also be without starting fullback Korey Hall, moving third-year man John Kuhn into the starting lineup.
Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant overcame something much more significant than an injury to join his team for today's game. Tryson Bryant, the infant son of Matt and his wife Melissa, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Wednesday. Since then, the Buccaneers' priority has been the well-being of the Bryant family; whether or not Bryant was going to play against the Packers was left up to the grieving kicker.
Tryson's funeral was conducted Saturday morning. Later in the day, his father informed the Buccaneers that he wanted to play in the game; thus Tampa Bay elected not to sign another kicker.
In addition to Askew, Galloway and Joseph, the Buccaneers named the following five players inactive: QB Josh Johnson, LB Matt McCoy, T James Lee, DT Ryan Sims and designated third quarterback Jeff Garcia. Sims is also out due to injury.
Green Bay's eight inactive players are: Bigby, Harris, Hall, RB Kregg Lumpkin, T Breno Giacomini, WR James Jones and DE Jeremy Thompson. In addition to the first three, Lumpkin and Jones are also out due to injuries.
Many of the Packers' injuries occurred in the team's loss to Dallas last Sunday night. Green Bay's defense was gashed for 453 yards in that game, as well. However, Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden, not one to put much credence in stats, believes Green Bay's 27th-ranked defense is much better than the numbers indicate.
"Dallas had a lot of big plays against Green Bay, but not sustained drives," said Gruden. "Dallas is very good, but I don't think that was an example of typical Cowboy domination. Green Bay played pretty well except for about five or six plays, I felt."
The Packers have identifiable strengths at all three levels of their defense, even with a banged-up secondary.
"They put on a real good rush," said Gruden. "Aaron Kampman and Cullen Jenkins are hard-nosed guys that get sacks on effort. Behind that rush, they give you contested, man-to-man tight coverage on every snap. We need to get back to running the ball this week because we need to have a balanced attack against this team."
Obviously, the absence of Bigby and Harris won't help the Packers, but Gruden said their injuries did not affect the Bucs' game plan going into today's contest.
"We're going to try to attack the structure of their defense, not the personnel," he said. "As the game goes on, maybe we can identify and create some favorable matchups."
The Buccaneers and Packers will get underway shortly, with kickoff scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET. Buccaneers.com will post a review of all the action at halftime and an extensive game story, with links for stats, photos, scoring information and more, shortly after the final whistle.