WR Jacquez Green should be in uniform on Sunday
Second-year wide receiver Jacquez Green sat out Friday's practice, the team's last full-scale workout before Sunday's game. However, Green remains probable on the team's injury report and is likely to suit up for the crucial Detroit contest. In fact, the Buccaneers have very few injury issues heading into their battle for first place with the Lions.
"Jacquez has a little bit of a foot sprain," said Dungy after Friday's workout, "but I think he'll be 100 percent by Sunday. (Recently-signed guard) Ken Blackman is improving. Otherwise, everybody was able to practice today and we look like we're in pretty good shape for Sunday."
Dungy doesn't include QB Trent Dilfer in that analysis, as his broken right clavicle has him shelved for at least three to five more weeks. He does, however, include veteran hurler Eric Zeier, who has thrown with much more comfort this week and is almost mended from the ribs injury he suffered the last time Tampa Bay faced the Lions. Rookie Shaun King remains the starter for Sunday, but Zeier has improved to the point to be a viable alternative.
In addition to Zeier, RB Warrick Dunn also completed the full practice session today. Dungy reiterated his feelings of Thursday that Dunn is much improved over last week's condition, when he was unable to play against Minnesota, and that he would be available for third-down work at the very least.
Green was rested today and Thursday mostly for precautionary reasons. As the most consistent producer for the Buccaneer passing game during the team's five-game winning streak, Green's health for the game is of high importance for Tampa Bay. Green has 22 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns over that five-week span and has provided the big-play element to the passing attack that is supposed to complement the team's power running game. Dungy feels that continued running success will help Green stay on his hot streak.
"I suppose teams might eventually try to key on (Green)," said Dungy. "But it's difficult to double-cover receivers in our system and still stop our running game."
Detroit, in fact, must cover Green and the Bucs' receiving corps with a secondary somewhat depleted by injuries. CB Kevin Abrams, who started seven games in 1998, has played in just one contest this year, against the Bucs on October 31, and is now on injured reserve. CB Bryant Westbrook has missed seven starts this year, including the last two, due to injuries, though he is not on the injury report this week. CB Terry Fair is, however. Listed as out, Fair will miss his second start in a row.
According to Dungy, this is nothing new for the Lions, who have excelled in 1999 despite significant injury problems. "Everyone is talking about St. Louis, and they're having a great year, but the Lions have done a great job, too," said Dungy. "When you look at their injury report, week-in and week-out, and see that they've still played consistently…they've done a fantastic job of having whoever is in there step up and get the job done.
"We had the same situation against the Vikings this week," Dungy continued. "Big Monday night game, and we didn't have Warrick Dunn. Fortunately, our defense stepped up."
The Lions injury report also features running backs Ron Rivers (ankle, out) and Sedrick Irvin (knee, doubtful), leaving the majority of the rushing load on Greg Hill. However, as Dungy said, Hill and the Lions know how to step up: Hill rushed for 123 yards against the Buccaneers in the last meeting, more than any other back against Tampa Bay this season.