WR Reidel Anthony remains the team's top injury concern
Apparently, a three-day weekend was long enough. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will return to the practice field for a light workout on Monday, and none of the team's players have decided to take an additional day off. The Bucs expect the full roster to be on the field on Monday and for the start of full practices on Tuesday, giving the team a chance to accurately evaluate its overall health.
Actually, that is a bit misleading, as the team's roster stands at just 51 players, two below the limit of 53. T Paul Gruber, who has started all but nine of the Bucs' last 192 games at left tackle, and G Ken Blackman, a November signee who has not played in 1999, were placed on injured reserve last Wednesday. As of Monday morning, the team had not filled the resulting roster spots.
The current 51, however, should be in full force this week. "We should have everybody ready to go, we're hoping," said Dungy during his Monday press conference. "We're going to do a little light work and find out this afternoon. The original report that I got is that we should have everybody tomorrow."
(For an update to this story on Tuesday, click here.)
Though the teams are not required to file an official injury report with the NFL until Tuesday, the Buccaneers' training room reports that only WR Reidel Anthony and QB Trent Dilfer are likely to be listed as questionable. Anthony missed the Bucs' season finale in Chicago on January 2 due to a quadriceps pull he suffered in practice. Dilfer just returned to practice last week near the end of his recovery from a broken right clavicle, sustained in Seattle on November 28. Dungy felt that Anthony's status could be clearer after Monday's late afternoon workout.
"We'll find out today," said Dungy. "He pretty much rested last week and the three days that we had off and should be ready to go 100 percent today. If not, obviously Darnell (McDonald) has done it for us and we wouldn't feel badly if he goes in there and plays. We'll determine that in practice. Darnell's made some big plays for us, and we'd like to get him in there. We'll see how things go and who's available."
McDonald played briefly in Anthony's absence in Chicago, subbing at receiver for just a few snaps but making a crucial 15-yard catch on third-and-14 on the Bucs' third-quarter field goal drive. In nine games this season, McDonald has caught nine passes for 96 yards and one touchdown.
Dilfer's status may also be clearer by the time Tuesday rolls around. The issue surrounding Dilfer is whether he has healed sufficiently to serve as the team's number-two quarterback, and whether the team would use him in that role if he has. While the sixth-year quarterback threw very well in practice last Wednesday, he still must be cleared to take a hit on the injured shoulder.
"Basically, if (the team's medical staff) gives us the clearance, we have to make the decision whether to give him the reps as the number two quarterback or not. Really, you're not going to find out until you actually get in the game and get hit.
"Really, you just have to look and see how he's throwing at practice and if that gives us the best chance to win if he goes in the game," Dungy continued. "As opposed to Eric who's been practicing and doing all the work the last couple of weeks. It will be a tough call, but again, it would help if we got that clearance early in the week. If we don't, it's unlikely that we would make that move."
Dungy does not expect the question to linger. "We would have to make that decision probably tonight," he said.
Also likely to be on the Bucs' injury report, though listed as probable, is DT Brad Culpepper. Culpepper, a crucial element to the team's sometimes impenetrable run defense, played only nine snaps in Chicago before tearing the planter fascia tendon in his right foot. Culpepper probably would not have been available if the team had been forced to play in the Wild Card round, but he is expected to suit up on Saturday.
After a rugged 27-13 win over the Lions on Saturday, the Redskins could have injury problems of their own, particularly on offense. On Monday, Washington was reportedly concerned about the health status of T Andy Heck, C Cory Raymer and RB Stephen Davis. However, only Heck, who plays left tackle and suffered a torn hamstring on Saturday, has definitely been ruled out. Dungy expects to see the rest of the Redskins in action, particularly Davis, the NFC's leading rusher in 1999.
I would anticipate him being available," said Dungy. "Generally, this time of year, guys tend to be there. That's what we're planning on. We think he'll be there. If not, at the beginning of the year they were debating whether it would be Hicks or Stephen Davis. Hicks played against us last year and ran the ball well, so I don't think they'll change what they do no matter who's in the lineup."
Still, the Redskins new list of ailments illustrates again the importance of a week off when the postseason rolls around. "You never know what's going to happen when you play," said Dungy. "Anything can happen, and that's why you fight so hard for that bye. But, it can happen before that. We lost our left tackle in the last week of the regular season. That's why you have 53 guys. They continued to play well after (Heck's injury), and I'm sure they will again on Saturday."