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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Giving Thanks

The Bucs practiced on Thursday but still found time for family, and they even found a new reason to be thankful right there on the practice field


Good news on Thanksgiving: Corey Ivy appears ready to play against the Panthers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers broke practice at 1:30 on Thursday and headed home to their families, knowing they had many things for which to be thankful.

Too many to name, really, as is usually the case on Thanksgiving. But here's one: cornerback Corey Ivy was back on the practice field on Thursday.

The day before, Ivy had been added to the injury report after being carted off the field due to a knee injury. He was initially labeled 'questionable' as the team sought further tests on his knee.

Obviously, Ivy passed those tests with flying colors.

"He must have, because he was out here practicing and did a good job," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "He's a really tough cookie, so he'll be ready to go."

Ivy has played only a handful of defensive snaps this year, but he is still a valuable member of the team thanks to his special teams skills. He was, in fact, the team's special teams MVP last year, and he continues to excel on kickoff and punt coverage. Ivy's 12 kick-coverage stops rank third on the team.

"He's certainly an impact guy for us," said Gruden. "He's just a real good Buccaneer. We're happy to have him for the game."

The Bucs are now fairly certain that Ivy will be able to play against Carolina on Sunday and have upgraded him to probable on the injury report. With Ivy and center Sean Mahan (shoulder) participating in practice, the Bucs had only one player on the sideline for the Thanksgiving session: safety Jermaine Phillips. Phillips will miss his second straight game due to a forearm fracture, for which he had surgery last week.

Obviously, there are many players who contribute heavily to the Bucs' special teams efforts, and the team's strong numbers in such areas as kickoff coverage, punt coverage and kickoff return indicate that the group effort is going well. Still, Tampa Bay wants to have every possible contributor ready for Sunday's game because it's battles with the Panthers always seem to go down to the wire. In a game often decided by the slimmest of margins, a key special teams play could turn the tide.

"Yardage has been hard to come by in this game, and special teams is an area of hidden yardage, as we say around here," said Gruden. "Field position is sometimes largely determined by your return game and your coverage game. The kickers, the punters, the protection people – all those guys will play a huge role in this game."

The Bucs had several special teams sessions during its two hours of work on Thursday, as usual. Though they finished their day about three hours earlier than is customary, they still got in a full day of meetings and practice reps thanks to an early roll call.

"We got here really early," said Gruden. "I think the day started at 6:00 a.m. We got every rep in and we didn't slight one aspect of our preparation. It was all business and I was really impressed by it."

That only made him more happy to wave his players off early in the afternoon. The football season can sometimes put a crimp in holiday plans, but there was plenty of time left Thursday afternoon for turkey, football and family fun.

It's back to work on Friday, though.

"They've got a lot to be thankful for," said Gruden. "We've all got to remember that, I think. They'll spend some time with their families, then head back into the woodshed and get ready for tomorrow."

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