DT Anthony McFarland missed Saturday's game at New England but was able to get some practice time in Wednesday
Anthony McFarland might get to join in Saturday's pursuit of Michael Vick after all.
The status of the defensive tackle's injured right hamstring has improved to the point that he is officially considered "questionable" to play on Saturday against Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. That still gives McFarland no more than a 50-50 shot to suit up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 15th game of the season, but even that possibility is encouraging given the team's estimate of his health earlier in the week.
McFarland sustained his hamstring strain seven defensive snaps into the Buccaneers' win at Carolina on December 11. He sat out the ensuing contest on Saturday at New England, his first missed game of the year, and on Sunday was unofficially referred to as "doubtful" for the Atlanta contest. However, McFarland was able to join the team on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon.
"McFarland did practice a little bit," confirmed Head Coach Jon Gruden. "He's still questionable for the game but we were encouraged by that."
The 6-0, 300-pound McFarland starts at under tackle for the Buccaneers and is an integral part of the team's second-ranked defense. He was having a strong season, as evidenced by his team-leading six tackles-for-loss, and on Wednesday was named a Pro Bowl alternate (more information on Buccaneer alternates below).
McFarland missed eight games last season with a triceps injury and was unavailable for the Bucs' Super Bowl run in 2002 due to a broken foot. However, his current injury is comparatively mild and wasn't expected to keep him out for an extended period.
"It's a hamstring," McFarland said before the New England game. "Let's not make more out of it then what it is. Let's keep it in perspective. That's what it is. This is not bone graft we are doing here. It's a simple hamstring. That's it."
And one, apparently, that is healing a good pace. The same may also be true of Kenyatta Walker's shoulder, which kept him out of full-team portions of Wednesday's practice but not all of the individual drills. Walker, who has started all 14 games at right tackle this season, is probable on the Bucs' official injury report.
Starting tight end Anthony Becht (ankle) is also listed as questionable and was held out of most of the day's work, participating in the "light stuff." Linebacker Marquis Cooper (chest) is questionable as well but was able to practice.
Actually, the only Buccaneer who is certain not to play on Saturday is the newest name on the list, center Scott Jackson. Jackson had an appendectomy on Tuesday and has already been ruled out. A reserve lineman who started the season on the practive squad, he has been on the active roster since Week Five but has yet to appear in a game.
The Falcons' injury report is similar to the Bucs' in length, though all five players on the list are considered questionable or worse. That includes one starter each on offense and defense – right guard Kynan Forney (neck) and strong safety Keion Carpenter (thigh). Defensive end Brady Smith, doubtful with a toe injury, was also a starter to begin the season but has been out with his injury since the Falcons' eighth game.
All-Stars in Waiting
Linebacker Derrick Brooks, cornerback Ronde Barber and punter Josh Bidwell were identified as the Buccaneers' three Pro Bowl selections for the 2005 season on Wednesday morning. However, several other Buccaneers had favorable showings in the voting and could eventually be added to the all-star roster.
Five Buccaneer players have been identified as Pro Bowl alternates, meaning they are among those in line if any of the players originally selected to the NFC team are unable to play in the game. The Bucs announced those names on Wednesday afternoon but did not specify whether the players were first, second or third alternates.
The Bucs' five Pro Bowl alternates are McFarland, fullback Mike Alstott, wide receiver Joey Galloway, defensive end Simeon Rice and running back Cadillac Williams.
Alstott, of course, has been to six Pro Bowls, the most ever by a Tampa Bay offensive player, and Rice has been selected three times, twice as a Buccaneer. However, McFarland, Galloway and Williams would all be making their first all-star trips if selected.
Like every team in the league, the Buccaneers were hoping to have several more players selected to the Pro Bowl, including but not limited to those players listed as alternates. There were specific hopes, however, that Galloway would get enough votes to qualify, given his strong numbers across the board.
The 11th-year receiver ranks fifth in the conference in receiving yards (1,152) and tied for third in touchdown receptions (eight), and he trails only Terry Glenn (17.9) and Santana Moss (16.5) in yards per reception, with a mark of 16.2. The four receivers selected to represent the NFC were Washington's Moss, Carolina's Steve Smith, Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald and St. Louis' Torry Holt.