TE Anthony Becht won't sit on Sunday if he's able to play because the Bucs need to win before planning for the playoffs
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, heading into Sunday's game with a battered starting lineup, might like the opportunity to rest some key players for next week. The only problem is, there's no guarantee there will be a next week.
So when it comes to such injured starters as Kenyatta Walker (ankle), Anthony Becht (ankle) and Anthony McFarland (hamstring), there will be no resting simply for the sake of rest. The Bucs may have up to four game-time decisions on Sunday, and all of them will hinge solely on the trainers' report.
"You'd like to have that luxury [to rest players], but we need this game," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "We need the game. We're going to play the best players that we have and the ones who are healthy. We'll start with the health first. We'll do what the trainer says we can do, and we'll talk to the player specifically. We'll get all the information and make a calculated decision in the end. But if you're ready to roll and you're the best player, you're going."
Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis and Denver will probably rest some players this weekend. They're all locked into their seedings, and first-round byes, and don't have an enormous amount on the line this weekend. The Cincinnati Bengals and New England Patriots have won their divisions and can only toggle between the third and fourth seeds; perhaps they will make a few strategic lineup moves. Jacksonville will be the fifth seed in the AFC no matter what happens in their finale against Tennessee.
Even if the New York Giants win on Saturday night and thereby clinch a playoff spot for the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay's playoff future may still be at stake on Sunday. Lose to the New Orleans Saints in the regular-season finale and the Bucs might end up in a Wild Card spot, on the road throughout the playoffs. That's a path that rarely leads to the Super Bowl.
"I don't [care] where you go or what your schedule is, you've got a long, rough road," said Gruden of the playoffs. "That I do know. We understand the implications of the game and the previous statistics [about home games]. They are what they are. But I'll say this: We've got to play a great game to win on Sunday. New Orleans is coming in here and they're a talented football team."
The Bucs will already almost certainly be without two starters on Sunday. Wide receiver Michael Clayton has been ruled out due to a turf toe injury; he'll be replaced in the starting lineup by Ike Hilliard, bumping Edell Shepherd up to the number-three role. And the team downgraded safety Jermaine Phillips to doubtful on Friday due to his knee injury.
McFarland is actually considered probable to play against the Saints despite his hamstring injury, and he has practiced well this week. That leaves four players as question marks on game day: Walker, Becht, wide receiver Mark Jones (foot) and center Scott Jackson (appendix).
Walker is the right tackle on and offensive line that has started all 15 games together this season. The 2005 team could become the first one in franchise history to start the same five offensive linemen in every game, but Walker has seen very little action on the practice field this week and could break up the run.
Walker overcame a questionable designation due to a shoulder injury to play last week, but he also was able to work with the offense a little bit in the middle of the week. "Normally those guys practice in some way, shape or form by this time," said Gruden of starters who overcome reduced practice time to play anyway.
If Walker can't play, veteran Todd Steussie will start at right tackle. If Jones is out, Hilliard would pick up that job as well. Jackson, a reserve lineman who had an appendectomy last week, has not played in a game this year.
The Bucs finished their week of practice on Friday with no solid answers on their four questionable players. They do know, however, that they will gladly field any of those players who are cleared for the game.
"I think all the guys who are questionable pretty much go down to game day," said Gruden.
Glazer Family Foundation Completes Fall Grant Program
Representatives form 13 organizations in the West Central Florida area visited practice on Friday to receive donations from the Glazer Family Foundation.
Completing its fall grant program, the Foundation awarded a total of $25,000 on Friday, helping such programs as the Daystar Life Center and the National Coalition on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency of Tampa Bay.
The donations were directed to aid specific initiatives at the 13 organizations, such as a weekend bereavement camp for children run by Lifepath Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. and the purchase of computers and software for tutorial services at the Center for Urban Leadership and Community Development.
The special visitors on Friday were treated to a viewing of practice and a tour of the facility. At the conclusion of practice, Gruden came over to present each organization with its check.
The Glazer Family, owners of the Buccaneers, established the grant program in an effort to financially assist local organizations with special needs. The primary focus of the bi-annual grant program is to support the general health, safety, education and recreation for youth and families in West Central Florida.
The Foundation has contributed more than $2.5 million in grants, merchandise and tickets to the Bay area. Some of these contributions include 750,000 Buccaneers bookmarks to public libraries throughout seven Bay area counties, 7,500 backpacks to 30 organizations for its back-to-school program and more than 145,000 teddy bears to hospitalized youth through the "Cheering You On" hospital program.
Grant recipients for the Glazer Family Foundation's 2005 fall cycle are as follows: