WR Karl Williams won't let a leg injury keep him out of practice or the game
The only place more crowded than Santa's workshop this time of year is an NFL training room. No matter what appears on a team's injury report, it is a December certainty that a large percentage of the roster will be nursing various injuries.
The Buccaneers are no exception, and the room became even more crowded on Thursday when three more players were added to the team's lengthy injury report, bringing the current total to 11, including six players who are expected to start on Sunday. The latest additions were DT Warren Sapp, who has injuries to both of his shoulders, DT Anthony McFarland, who is suffering from a strained back, and WR Jacquez Green, who continues to be bothered by a right foot strain.
However, all three additions to the list were put on in the 'probable' category, technically defined as a 75% chance that they will play. Sapp sat out practice on Wednesday but is expected to return for Thursday's workout (Buccaneers.com will report with an update in this space at the end of practice). Joining Sapp on the sidelines on Wednesday were C Tony Mayberry (probable, neck), T Paul Gruber (probable, shoulder) and WR Reidel Anthony (probable, ankle).
One ailing player who did not sit out on Wednesday was WR Karl Williams, a key figure in the Bucs' multiple-receiver set and one of the top punt return men in NFL history (12.8-yard career average). He and CB Ronde Barber each suffered significant thigh bruises last Sunday in Oakland, but are hopeful of being on the field against Green Bay. Williams wasn't sure how his leg would react to Wednesday's practice, claimed on Thursday morning to be in good shape.
"It's better," said Williams, who has seen marked improvement since a tough Monday. "I didn't think I was going to be able to practice on it, but I did and I made it all the way through. It's going to be tender, but if I can make it through practice I should be able to make it through a game.
"It's a long season. You expect things like this at this time of the year. Now is the time that you've got to show your toughness."
That statement will probably also apply to DE Steve White on Sunday. White missed last Sunday's game due to a painful turf toe injury on his right foot but has been upgraded to probable this week and indicated on Thursday that he expects to play. White actually suffered the injury seven weeks ago in the Bucs' win at New Orleans on November 7 but has been able to play through it since. He then aggravated the injury against Detroit on December 12, forcing his inactivity last Sunday.
While a 'turf toe' injury may sound somewhat innocuous next to the more familiar knee sprains and broken bones, it can actually be a very painful injury and a difficult one from which to recover. Turf toe usually strikes the big toe and occurs when the toe is hyper-extended, often when the foot is caught on the ground and then bent back. This can lead to an infection in the joint between the toe and the foot which is difficult to treat.
All of which means White may have to deal with his ailment for some time. "A turf toe injury just doesn't go away," said White.
Green, one of Thursday's three additions, is in a similar situation in that his injury has been with him for some time. Green has surfaced on many of the Bucs' injury reports in the second half of the season as the severity of his strained right foot worsens from time to time. However, the speedy wideout also expects to be in the lineup against the Packers.
QB Trent Dilfer, who continues to rehabilitate a broken right clavicle, and G Ken Blackman, who has been working on a left knee sprain since signing with the team in November, have already been ruled out. However, the other nine Bucs on the injury report share a determination to play that indicates the importance of Sunday's game against Green Bay outweighs the pain of their ailments. "This is a must win situation for them, and we're looking at it as a must-win, too," said Sapp, who was wearing a shoulder harness with ice bags on each shoulder on Thursday. "It's going to come down to who can impose their will on the other team."