DE Steve White has played through an ankle injury that seems to be improving
Despite earlier indications that he might have to miss some practice time this week, QB Shaun King suited up and hit the field with the rest of the squad on Thursday. In fact, DE Chidi Ahanotu and S David Gibson were the only players not to participate in Thursday's workout.
King is suffering from tonsillitis, according to the Bucs' training staff, which has left him with a sore throat, headaches and fatigue. However, he has already begun moving in the right direction, he said after practice.
"I'm just a little under the weather," said King, with his voice only a little softer than usual. "I'm fine. I think I was getting the cold or the flu or something. I'm feeling better."
Nevertheless, King got up slowly after the interview and will continue to receive treatments of rest and antibiotics. There is little concern that King will be ready for the Packers.
"Shaun is actually doing better," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "He was feeling very, very poorly early in the morning but seemed to get better as the day went on. (Head Trainer) Todd Toriscelli's got him on some antibiotics and that kind of thing. Marcus Jones actually had it earlier in the week, and it stayed with him for about a day and a half, so we're optimistic that by tomorrow evening he'll be fine. He made it through practice and then went home to rest."
King is thus expected to start his 10th straight game this year. Paired with his six games (and five starts) last year during his rookie campaign, that will basically represent a full NFL season. In his nearly complete season's worth of work, the St. Petersburg native has completed 225 of 400 passes (56.3%) for 2,578 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while being sacked 24 times.
His career passer rating of 81.0 is by far the best in team history among players with more than a dozen passes, though it is far too early to pass him that crown yet. For the sake of interest, and no other reason, here are Green Bay QB Brett Favre's stats through his first 16 games (14 starts) with the Packers (five passes with Atlanta in 1991 are disregarded:
· 321 completions in 500 attempts, 3,491 yards, 20 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 37 sacks, 86.3 passer rating.
Favre's first regular-season action with Green Bay actually came in Tampa, on September 13, 1992, when he relieved an injured Don Majkowski during a 31-3 Buccaneer rout and completed eight of 14 passes for 73 yards and one pick. After relieving Majkowski in the first quarter again the next week, Favre began a streak of starts the following Sunday that is still alive at 134 games and is already an all-time NFL record.
King was still a schoolboy in St. Petersburg when Favre started his run, and he first saw the Packer hurler in action during his college years. "I actually got to see him when they came to New Orleans – I was at Tulane – the year they beat New England and won the Super Bowl."
King is impressed with Favre for the same reason that voters made him a three-time league MVP. "He's a playmaker, he's a guy that makes plays," said King. "He's got a strong arm. He's a real good quarterback. His record speaks for itself…what does he have, three MVPs, four MVPs?"
The biggest difference between King and Favre's 16-game stat lines above is the more times Favre was asked to throw the ball, and has been ever since. Deep down, King might like to emulate Favre's off-the-cuff style, but he is currently very satisfied with his role in the Bucs' quickly improving offense.
"Different styles fit different places," said King. "He's kind of free-wheeling, he takes a lot of chances. For our team, I don't think you have to do that right now. I think we're good enough in every aspect that you just go out and make the keys and pick your spots where you try to make plays.
"It's a growing process. I'm comfortable with my role right now. I think they are opening it up more and we are getting to the point where they're just letting me play a little bit. But whatever I'm asked to do, I just try to go out and do it."
Following the pattern of recent weeks, the Bucs followed an up-and-down Wednesday effort with a strong practice on Thursday. Though there weren't as many good-natured verbal uprisings by the scout team as the week before, Dungy actually felt his team was more on the mark this week.
"Practice was actually good," he said. "I thought we were sharp, very intense, and it was one of our better Thursday practices. So that was encouraging."
As mentioned above, only two Bucs sat out of Thursday afternoon's workout.
"Chidi did not practice," said Dungy. "He and David Gibson were the two guys that were held out. Again, we think that with a little rest, both of those guys should be better by Saturday."
DE Steve White did take the field, though he has been struggling in recent weeks with an ankle injury that also bothered him in 1999. Since the ailment has lingered for some time, the team has taken a closer look to pinpoint the problem.
"Steve is actually doing better," said Dungy. "He had an MRI and they think they've really zeroed in on the problem. It's nothing that he can do further damage to, so it's just a matter of getting him the right amount of rest so that he can get better, but still giving him the work that he needs to practice. He actually said that he felt better after the (Atlanta) game than he did the week before, so we took that as a good sign."
However, Steve probably feels a little worse on Thursday, with a pain located somewhat higher than the ankle, around the vicinity of his back pocket.
"We got a letter from the league office today that was a little bit disappointing, but as I said, I've been fooled before," said Dungy.
Dungy was referring to a fine that White received on Thursday from the NFL for the hit that resulted in Atlanta QB Chris Chandler's concussion on Sunday. Dungy had hoped the league would agree that the contact between White and Chandler's helmets was unintentional and would not levy a fine.
"Basically, Steve (was fined) for helmet-to-helmet contact," said Dungy. "That's the gist of it. There's an appeals process, and Steve will have to go through those channels. We're disappointed, but I'm sure everybody is when they're players get fined."
Dungy tried to describe the circumstances of the tackle.
"It's a situation where you're coming in and you're trying to block a pass, then you're being blocked by someone else and you're just trying to make a tackle the best way you can," he said. "This was not a situation where he was in wide-open spaces and launched himself and came high. He's being blocked and the quarterback is scrambling around, so it's a difficult one."
Dungy did not reveal the amount of the fine.