WR Tim Brown doesn't believe a lack of cohesion has been a problem for the Bucs' offense
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added defensive tackle Anthony McFarland to the injury report on Thursday, the result of a sore shoulder. McFarland is expected to play against Seattle on Sunday, however, and that's an important consideration given the Seahawks strong inside running game with Shaun Alexander.
Charles Lee, meanwhile, never has been on the week's injury report, but the team has kept a close eye on the receiver this week as he continues to return from a preseason hamstring injury. Last week, Lee still struggled a bit with his leg, which contributed to his being named inactive for the season opener in Washington. He has looked fine this week, however, and is expected to play a significant role in the passing game with Joey Galloway out due to a groin injury.
"I thought he did well," said Head Coach Jon Gruden of Lee's work on Thursday, the second of two full-scale practices in preparation for the Seattle game. "He's put back-to-back days together, and you'll see a lot more of him on Sunday, I'm sure."
Lee feels good after a frustratingly inactive preseason – not the followup he wanted to his 2003 breakout campaign – and is eager to get back on the field for more than the cameo he had in the preseason finale against Houston.
"I'm practicing; I played in the last preseason game," said Lee. "I felt as if I was well enough to play, but the coaching staff felt as though they wanted to give me another week to get ready. It's here now, so we'll see what happens."
Lee would be one candidate to start at Galloway's split end spot, as would Bill Schroeder. However, Gruden said that lineup call would probably be a game-time decision. Last year, Lee started the last five games of the season and over the last six contests caught 33 passes for 432 yards and two touchdowns.
"It's just my turn again," he said. "I'm excited. We'll see what happens. I'm just glad to get another chance to go out and showcase my talents. Hopefully, my number will be called a couple of times and I can go in and make some things happen."
Another key player who saw action only sparingly in the preseason was running back Charlie Garner, who had knee surgery during the offseason. Garner felt very fresh and rested heading into the regular season after playing only a few downs in August, but his Buccaneer debut produced only 25 rushing yards on 11 carries and four yards on one reception.
Gruden agrees that Garner's legs are fresh and even attributes some of his first-game troubles to being too eager.
"I think [the first-game experience] will help him," said Gruden. "He was a little quick to the hole at times and I think he slipped a couple of times right on the exchange. He's a little quick. That's how he is – he's sometimes too quick to get started, and obviously the blocking patterns don't get a chance to develop.
"I'm going to try to cool him out a little bit. Cool him out a little bit, help him to relax a little bit…we'll need some kind of relaxation therapy before the game. But he was a little quick, out of rhythm early, and we've got to try to help him."
Seattle reported no changes to their injury report on Thursday, with starters Alexander (knee) and safety Terreal Bierria (quadriceps) still considered questionable.
At least two of the six new starters on Tampa Bay's offense do not feel as if a lack of cohesion is a problem for the unit. That's an obvious point to wonder, given the preseason shuffling the offense was put through due to a variety of minor injuries. Still, most of the group has been together throughout the offseason's series of practices and mini-camps, and no one is looking for a convenient excuse.
"We are playing as one on offense," said Derrick Deese, the new left tackle. "Everybody had to look at themselves and decide what changes they need to make and what they need to do better. We need to capitalize on that this week, and that's why we are out here today; everyone is going to get better. We know what problems we had when we went over the film, so your goal is really not to let that happen again."
Even Brown, the latest addition to the offense, doesn't believe that the unit's lack of playing time together is a problem. Brown came aboard after training camp started, but he is familiar with Gruden's offense and already comfortable with quarterback Brad Johnson.
"I've played with 21 different quarterbacks in this league and I'm sure Brad falls into one of those categories," said Brown. "I can't speak for [other Buccaneers], but I don't think it had anything to do with that. I just think it had to do with it being our first game out, a very loud and boisterous stadium [in Washington] and we just didn't make the plays when we had an opportunity to early in the game."
The Bucs did begin clicking somewhat in the second half in Washington, though their last two possessions were killed by quarterback sacks. Deese thinks the cohesion is there; it just has to show up earlier on the game clock.
"There are no excuses whether or not that was a problem," he said. "We have to redefine the problem now and it was in scoring so we need to get in the other zone. We need to start fast and finish fast."
Long Way to Go
Less than a week after flying back to the Pacific Northwest from the Big Easy, the Seahawks have to board another long flight to Florida.
As one of only two teams to start the season with consecutive road games, Seattle got a tough opening draw. Their trip to Tampa will cover over 5,000 round-trip miles.
The Seahawks, in fact, will travel farther this year than any team except San Francisco. Counting preseason games, the 49ers will fly 35,756 miles this season to the Seahawks' 29,956. For regular season games only, Seattle has the farthest cumulative distance to travel.
The Bucs' own distant journeys begin next week when they head to Oakland for a Sunday night game. Tampa Bay is 11th on the list of overall travel miles among the 32 teams, slated to fly a total of 20,542 miles for their 10 road games. Other long trips for the Buccaneers this season include games in San Diego, Phoenix and St. Louis.