Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Laying the Groundwork

Practice Notes: Joey Galloway’s practice-field heroics may be a sign of big things to come…Injuries - Phillips questionable…Reactions to awards for Simeon Rice and Cadillac Williams

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Not every amazing Joey Galloway moment happens on game day, as evidenced by this catch in practice on Wednesday

How many big plays has Joey Galloway made this season?

Could you recall all 16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers games this fall and count them one by one? Would you remember every third-and-long catch in traffic, every toe-dragging 30-yarder that set up a touchdown, or would you just fix on the team record-breaking 10 TDs?

Sure, some rabid Buccaneer fan out there could probably bring up all 83 of Galloway's receptions from her memory bank, but that still wouldn't encompass all of the receiver's amazing moments this season.

That's because Tampa Bay practices aren't televised.

Look back through the news archives on this very site and you'll find moments of Galloway admiration from Head Coach Jon Gruden dating back to just a few weeks after he came over from Dallas in a trade in the spring of 2004. It quickly became clear that the former Cowboy and Seahawk, the player some called the fastest man in the NFL, was going to make a huge impact in Gruden's offense. There were days on the practice field when you simply couldn't drag your eyes away from Galloway.

Wednesday at One Buccaneer Place was one of those days. And that's good news for the Buccaneers as they prepare for Saturday's Wild Card Playoff game against the Washington Redskins.

"He made three plays today that were just…some of the best things he does are out here on the practice field," said Gruden, momentarily at a loss for words. "It's just too bad you can't see it. He's got a tremendous flair about him to make plays. He's having fun and I'm really proud to be associated with him. He's a great player. He's a big reason we have made some plays on offense, certainly."

As much as Gruden was looking forward to unleashing Galloway at the start of the 2004 season, it all started badly when the veteran pass-catcher ripped a groin muscle in the season opener against these same Redskins. Though he came back strong at the end of the season, delivering on that promise from the practice field, the Bucs took a more cautious approach before 2005, making Galloway sit out about half of the practices of training camp.

It worked, of course. Galloway started all 16 games this season and was the team's most consistent offensive force. But it wasn't as if he wanted to stand on the sidelines during all of those workouts. In fact, he usually inserted himself into the drills somehow, standing near the center calling out coverages or dipping into the huddle for play-calls.

Now the Bucs are heading into the playoffs and Galloway is about to play in just the third postseason game of his career. He certainly isn't missing practice these days. In fact, he's performing like those two hours are as important as the games. It's likely he's feeling the moment.

"I've barely experienced [the playoffs] myself," he said. "Let's just play. You know, we've got to go out execute just like we always do. It's for higher stakes now but the game plan's the same. We've just got to go out and execute."

Galloway isn't the only Buccaneer who is taking things seriously on the practice field. Though they've scaled back on the contact and the total time on the grass over the first two days, the Bucs have had a very good start to their preparations for the Redskins. That's true from the veterans like Galloway and linebacker Derrick Brooks all the way down to young contributors like running back Cadillac Williams and tight end Alex Smith. Gruden has been pleased to see his players loose but focused.

"I don't believe they're going to get uptight," said the coach. "They've played in Lambeau Field, they've played in big games, on the road and at home. This is obviously a much bigger game because it is the playoffs, but I believe these guys understand what it's all about. They do all they can to be a good part of this."

The Bucs' reduced practice time this week has been part of the effort to keep the team rested and healthy heading into the playoffs. Along those lines, the Bucs have to be reasonably happy with their initial injury report of the week. There are only three players on the list, and two of them have a good shot at suiting up on Saturday.

Wide receiver Michael Clayton, as reported on Monday, is out for the game due to a turf toe injury on his left foot. S Jermaine Phillips is considered questionable due to a knee ailment suffered on December 24 against Atlanta, but he was able to join the team on the field on Wednesday.

"He is getting better," said Gruden of Phillips. "He practiced today and that was a good sign."

The final player on the list is defensive end Simeon Rice, who came down with an illness on Wednesday and was excused from the afternoon's work. He is probable on the report and expected to play. The Bucs hope Rice is fully recovered by the weekend, because the team's sack leader is a very important part of the defense.

"He's NFC [Defensive] Player of the Week in Week 17 in a game we had to have," said Gruden. "He's as highly-conditioned of an athlete as there is at his best position. He's a great pass-rusher. He's a key cog in the number-one defense in the NFL, so we're going to need him. Hope you're feeling better, Simeon. We need you back tomorrow."

Before he left the facility, Rice commented on the third Player of the Week award of his career, an honor that followed his two-sack performance against the Saints on Sunday. It was clear that his mind was on bigger things.

"What matters to me is what we do this up-and-coming weekend," said Rice. "In terms of what I've been able to get accomplished, or what we've been able to get accomplished, it really means a lot. I don't want to disrespect it. I appreciated them for looking at an individual effort in this game, but certain things at this point take precedent in terms of what I'm trying to get accomplished. I appreciated it, but there's a lot more to accomplish this week in terms of this playoff, this rendezvous thing we've got going on."

The Bucs also reacted to Williams' NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, handed down on Wednesday as well.

"I'm really happy for him, proud of him," said Gruden. "It's a credit to him and his hard work. I'd also like to credit our football team, particularly [Running Backs Coach] Art Valero and Mike Alstott and Mike Pittman, our veteran backs who helped him out along the way. It's a great award. This guy's a special talent, a special kid and hopefully he's got a lot more great days ahead."

Williams drew 47 of the 50 votes from a national panel of media members to win the Associated Press award. One of the other three votes went to his former Auburn teammate, Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown, who was drafted three spots ahead of Williams in April. The Bucs, in fact, got Williams fifth after Brown went second and the Chicago Bears took running back Cedric Benson fourth.

Williams never really felt slighted by that draft order.

"I'm sure those teams are happy with the guys they got," he said. "I'm grateful to be a Buc, so I'm actually glad those guys got picked [ahead of me]."

That said, he had designs on beating out the rest of the competition for this award from day one.

"Of course I did," said Williams. "I think every ball player, as a rookie, wants to win the award. It wasn't my main goal, but it was something that I definitely wanted to accomplish, and it feels good to have it out of the way. I think, as far as a rookie season, you can't ask for much more. To go over 1,000 yards, to actually be in the playoffs is a great rookie year."

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