WR Jacquez Green may see little practice time this week as he recovers from a hip flexor strain
There's no truth to the rumor that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense held its Monday afternoon meeting in the training room.
That is, however, where quarterback Brad Johnson would have had to look on Monday morning to find a good portion of his usual targets. On Sunday against Pittsburgh, running back Warrick Dunn and wide receivers Keyshawn Johnson and Jacquez Green caught 16 of the 24 completions recorded by Brad Johnson. All three spent the next morning in the training room beginning what should be a long week of touch-and-go recovery.
As to whether or not any or all of the three would be available for Sunday's game against Minnesota, Dungy was unable to commit to an answer on Monday.
"Keyshawn, Jacquez, Warrick – it will be kind of a week-long vigil to see if they're going to play or not," he said.
In other words, here we go again
Buccaneer coaches and fans have spent the last two weeks not knowing if Dunn and LB Derrick Brooks would be in uniform come Sunday, thanks to a pair of sprained feet. Dunn and Brooks appear to be moving out of that questionable territory, but Johnson and Green have slid right into their places this week. It is more than conceivable that the Bucs will have to face their division rivals without either of their starting receivers.
"Warrick actually made it through the game on his foot okay," said Dungy. "He had a little hamstring strain. We're still trying to figure out if it's a muscle pull type of thing or just cramps. (Head Trainer) Todd Toriscelli seemed a little more encouraged on him than Keyshawn or Jacquez."
Both receivers were not only healthy through most of Sunday's game but also highly productive, combining for 14 receptions and 203 yards through three-and-a-half quarters. Then, in the span of eight plays over two Buccaneer drives, Green (abdomen/hip strain) and Johnson (hip strain/thigh bruise) each were lost for the remainder of the game.
They will also likely be lost for most of practice this week. Feeling in the Bucs' training room, which is off limits to the media, is that the team would be fortunate to have Johnson back in practice on Friday.
"He has a thigh bruise and a hip flexor strain and that's going to make it tough for him," said Dungy. "On the thigh bruise you want to run, but on the hip flexor you want to rest. So I don't know how he's going to work through that. If there's any way he can play, he'll play. He's a pretty tough guy. Right now it certainly not for sure that he will play. I think he'll be out at least for a couple of days."
For the record, Johnson will start with the 'rest' half of the formula and receive treatment over the next several days. The prognosis is very similar to Green, who also has an ongoing battle with a strained groin and is a question mark for Friday's practice.
"He came out and wasn't able to finish the game," said Dungy of Green. "He has the same type hip flexor (strain as Johnson)."
Though the official injury report does not come out until Wednesday morning, it is likely that both Johnson and Green will be considered 'questionable' when it does. Whether or not Dunn is in the same category will now depend on the status of his hamstring and not his foot. The training staff indicated that the foot sprain that caused Dunn to miss one game and about a half-dozen practices is now almost completely behind him. There is more optimism that Dunn will be able to practice on Wednesday, a decision that will hinge partly on the progress Dunn shows during a running session on Tuesday, which is normally a player's day off.
"I think I got a cramp in my hamstring in the fourth quarter," said Dunn on Monday evening after the team's short practice. "I still have flexibility and I can still move it. I can kick my leg up in the air and do everything. I think it's just sore right now from the cramp.
"The toe's getting better. It still hurts. I think I'm probably going to end up doing what I've been doing the last couple of weeks and just try to get it healed. Because of my toe, that's what I've been forced to do, try not to pressure on the bottom (of the foot). If I can do that, it helps me heal a little quicker. I actually want to practice. I don't know the plan for this week but I know my toe's a lot better."
(You can talk directly to Dunn about his situation Monday night on the Pewter Power Hour by calling the following toll free number between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. EDT: 1-866-783-2680.)
On Monday, Dungy seemed to feel as if Brooks, who has appeared somewhat slowed by his foot sprain during the past two games, is better off this Monday than the past two. He did admit to considering the notion of holding his Pro Bowl linebacker out for a week in order to getting him back to full strength.
"That's one of the things we're going to have to look at," said Dungy. "We have a lot of guys in that boat. Warrick's been the same way. We've had other guys – the receivers haven't been able to practice and it looks like a little more of the same this week. So that's one of the things we're going to have to look at, but whether Key's out there or not, other guys have to pick up the slack. We've played without guys before, and that's no reason for us not to play well."
In Johnson's case, of course, that is quite a bit of slack that would need lifting. Johnson leads not only the Bucs but the entire NFC with 41 receptions for 548 yards and trails only Denver's Rod Smith (51-599) in both categories in the entire league. Johnson is already nearly halfway to the Bucs' single-season record for receptions (86, by Mark Carrier in 1989) and has not been held to less than seven catches or 71 yards in a game yet this season.
Will Reidel Anthony, Karl Williams and Frank Murphy be needed to provide that same offense? There will probably not be a definitive answer until Sunday.
What else is new?