Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Getting Down to Business

The Bucs put myriad distractions aside on Friday and had a very strong practice in preparation for the Jets

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Head Coach Tony Dungy stopped to spend some time with guests from the Muscular Dystrophy Association after Friday's practice

The end of each Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice is signaled by repeated blows from Head Coach Tony Dungy's whistle. At that signal, the team knows to gather at midfield in a tight circle around Dungy, from where the coach delivers some sort of wrap up and/or organizational announcement.

While the practice session is open to the local media, what's said in that meeting is not loud enough to carry to the sidelines.

Luckily, Buccaneers.com isn't confined to the sidelines. We were close enough to the huddle on Friday afternoon, after the team finished up a two-hour session, to hear Dungy's general sentiment, and it was encouraging. Dungy told the team that the tempo and execution of Friday's workout was better than the previous Friday's effort, after which the team went up to Detroit and shellacked the Lions, 31-10.

Dungy later confirmed in an interview that last Friday's practice had been a bit sluggish, partially because of the sustained heat. This week in Tampa was just as hot, if not worse, than the previous one, but the team seems to be re-energized by the battle of 3-0 teams that will take place on Sunday when the New York Jets' visit Raymond James Stadium. That the Bucs were able to perform in such a focused manner is impressive considering the swirl of attention around the team this week.

"It's been interesting," said Dungy. "It's been definitely more off-the-field stuff than we had before the (NFC) Championship Game (last January), which is kind of unusual. Hopefully, we can focus in on the game and two good teams playing. I think that's what it's all about.

"I think our work's been good. I know our guys are focused in. They know they're playing a good football team. And our practices have been very good."

Dungy was pleased by the team's effort on Friday but not particularly surprised. In comparing the 2000 Buccaneers to last year's rather successful squad, the largest improvement seems to be in the category of consistency. The 2000 Bucs have practiced and played without the peaks and valleys that characterized this team from 1997 through mid-1999.

"We really are (consistent)," said Dungy. "For the most part, we have guys that come to work every day and work hard, and that's why we play well. We're not, I wouldn't say, an overly talented team, but we do work hard and play hard."

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The Bucs' injury report grew by several characters on Friday, and it's now longer than it has been at any point this season. However, there isn't a terrific amount of concern at One Buccaneer Place, as most of the ailments are manageable.

CB Ronde Barber (quad strain) and WR Andre Hastings (dislocated finger) were added to the report on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Barber was then removed from the report, but Hastings, with his finger in a splint, is still on the list and is considered questionable.

On Friday, a pair of linemen joined the report. DT James Cannida has a lower back strain and is considered probable, while DE John McLaughlin is suffering from a knee strain and is also probable.

The only starter in that group is Barber, who returned to practice on Friday. "Ronde's going to be fine," said Dungy. "He worked a little bit today and didn't seem to have any problems. Other than Andre Hastings – he's got a splint on his finger and should be fine – there's really nothing major."

S Dexter Jackson, who is on the report as probable with an ankle sprain, is expected to see his first regular-season action against the Jets this Sunday. He will probably take the active roster spot filled by rookie safety David Gibson through the first three weeks.

"Dexter will probably be active and we'll probably keep David Gibson down," said Dungy on Friday.

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In fact, the Bucs confirmed that Gibson would not play when they made him one of four Friday inactives. The other three are T DeMarcus Curry, TE Todd Yoder and Hastings.

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Not that it was any more of a distraction for the Buccaneers, but the practice sideline was packed on Friday. And not just with media.

Among the many visitors to One Buccaneer Place on Friday was a group brought out by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They were on hand as guests of LB Don Davis.

"I had a cousin who died of muscular dystrophy 13 years ago," said Davis. "The last couple of years that I've been here, we never had anything with the MDA. This was a great opportunity. I actually got to meet these people in the MDA through Checkers, so I wanted to get something started with them and the Buccaneers. A lot of these guys are big Buccaneers fans."

After practice ended at approximately 1:00 p.m., most of the team stopped by the porch lining the east sideline to spend a few minutes with the excited guests.

"We're having a great time," said Davis, noting that many of the Bucs signed autographs and posed for pictures. After meeting with Dungy, one of the guests asked for his business card to add to his collection.

"One of these guys said he'd never seen the Buccaneers up close, and this was his dream," said Davis. So it was good day."

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