DT Jovan Haye hasn't missed a game since joining the Bucs in the middle of the 2006 season, but he's a question mark for Monday's night contest
When Jermaine Phillips made his rather visible return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' lineup last Sunday against New Orleans, it restored the starting defensive lineup with which the team had opened the season.
Phillips missed three games to a forearm fracture; otherwise, the Buccaneers have been able to start the same 11 defenders in every game this year (excluding two contests in which Aqib Talib started in place of Cato June in a nickel package).
That's a nice run, but the Bucs may head into the December stretch drive without one of their starting defenders. Defensive tackle Jovan Haye sustained a knee injury against the Saints and may not be able to suit up for Monday night's first-place showdown with the Carolina Panthers. Haye did not return to the game on Sunday after suffering the mishap in the second quarter.
As the Buccaneers opened practice on Thursday in preparation for the Panthers, Haye was unable to participate. He was the only player on the Bucs' 53-man roster who was held completely out of practice on Thursday. Head Coach Jon Gruden is still reserving judgment on Haye's availability on Monday night but did admit that the knee injury has made Haye a question mark.
"I would say it's very questionable for Monday night," said Gruden. "But I've said this about him before: He has a mysterious way of showing up on the airplane in his uniform. So we'll hold out hope that he can play but I would say it's questionable at this point."
If Haye is unable to play in Charlotte, it will break his own string of 28 straight games started. He has opened every game for the Buccaneers since moving into the starting lineup at defensive tackle to open the 2007 season. Haye first arrived in Tampa as a midseason signee in 2006, when he was successfully converted from defensive end to an inside player. His quickness and power has made him a good fit for the critical under tackle position in the Bucs' defense.
Haye would likely be replaced in the lineup by seventh-year veteran Ryan Sims, who has been a key member in the Bucs' seven-man D-Line rotation this year. Sims, who has played both defensive tackle positions for Tampa Bay this season, took over the under tackle spot after Haye was hurt on Sunday. The Bucs also use defensive ends Jimmy Wilkerson and Kevin Carter inside in passing situations. Second-year player Greg Peterson, who is capable of playing both end and tackle, has been inactive for most of the season but could help shore up the rotation if Haye is out.
The 6-4, 315-pound Sims has 15 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass defensed this season. In his more extensive work against the Saints, Sims contributed a season-high four tackles and batted down a pass.
Three other Buccaneers were put on the injury report on Thursday, including fellow lineman Gaines Adams. Tampa Bay's sack leader with 5.5 QB takedowns on the season, Adams suffered a hip pointer against the Saints though he did finish the game. The Bucs are hopeful that their up-and-coming second-year end can keep his streak of 28 games played alive; losing two linemen for the Monday night game would stretch the rotation quite thin but Adams practiced fully on Thursday and Gruden seemed fairly unconcerned about him.
Two players were limited on Thursday: quarterback Brian Griese (right elbow), wide receiver Michael Clayton (foot). Griese hasn't played since he hurt his arm at Denver in Week Five but Clayton hasn't missed any time and should be able to overcome his current issue.
"He's had off-and-on bouts of tendinitis in his foot," said Gruden of Clayton. "We think he'll be okay. Again, he practiced a little bit but he was limited. He'll be ready to go."
Carolina's injury report for the week, released after the Panthers practiced on Wednesday is quite brief. Linebacker Adam Seward and defensive end Hilee Taylor, both of whom are reserves on the Panthers' depth chart, did not practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Ken Lucas (head) is listed on the Panthers' report, too, but he was able to practice fully to start the week.
A Place in History
Warrick Dunn is the third-leading rusher and the fifth-leading pass-catcher in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' history. Dunn also ranks second all-time on Atlanta's rushing chart and 12th on the Falcons' receptions list.
Put those 12 seasons of work together and you have one of the most prolific dual threats in NFL history. In fact, Dunn is about to join a club so exclusive it has so far admitted only five players.
And not just any five players. Check out this group: Marcus Allen, Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson. Whatever Dunn is on the verge of accomplishing, it must be big to put him in the company of that Canton-worthy crew.
It is. With six more catches – a total he could reach on Monday night at Carolina – Dunn will become just the sixth player in league annals to record 10,000 rushing yards and 500 receptions. Dunn currently has 10,821 rushing yards and 494 catches, including 4,840 and 290, respectively, as a Buccaneer. Tomlinson just became the fifth player in that group in Week 13.
If Dunn were to get his 500th catch this Monday at Bank of America Stadium, it would be reminiscent of another exclusive feat pulled off by a Buccaneer veteran two years ago.
Cornerback Ronde Barber is one of only seven players in NFL history – and the only cornerback in the bunch – to have recorded at least 20 career interceptions and 20 career sacks. He got his 20th sack to complete the double dip on December 11, 2005 against the Panthers in Charlotte. That game, coincidentally, was also a late-season battle for first place in the NFC South. The Buccaneers won the game, thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter interception by Barber, and went on to take the division.
NFL practice squads serve two primary functions of almost equal importance.
There is the developmental aspect of the squad, of course, as teams keep young men in the system in order to help them become viable players in the league. And there is also a significant benefit to the team on the practice field every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Fifty-three man rosters are already restrictive enough for teams trying to put together a useful on-field workout. As the season progresses, injuries can make that task even tougher, as certain positions can become depleted. Thus, the practice squad roster remains fluid throughout the season as teams respond to changing needs on the practice-field depth chart.
That would seem to be at least part of the motivation for the Bucs' latest roster move. On Wednesday, the team re-signed rookie defensive tackle Chris Bradwell to the practice squad, releasing linebacker Marc Magro to make a spot. Bradwell originally signed with the Buccaneers in May as an undrafted free agent out of Troy.
The 6-5, 280-pound Bradwell had a good training camp for Tampa Bay but was released on August 30. He appeared in all four preseason games, contributing two tackles and a sack.
At Troy, Bradwell was the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year in 2007 after sitting out the 2006 season. His '07 totals included 36 tackles, including eight for losses, four sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Bradwell was a junior college All-American at Northeast Mississippi Community College before transferring to Troy.
Magro spent three weeks on the Bucs' practice squad after signing on November 12.