LB Jamie Duncan returned to practice Saturday but probably won't start
Nothing about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' October schedule is normal. A Monday night game threw this week's routine off by one day, and the team's bye week comes next. So, instead of following a Monday game with the typical short week, the Bucs will actually get an extra day or two off before beginning preparations for a Thursday game against Detroit the following week.
Head Coach Tony Dungy was actually pleased with the way this portion of the Bucs' schedule has fallen, with the bye week allowing two unusually scheduled games to be handled easily. However, the Monday game did disrupt the usual flow this week, and that can be unwelcome for a coach so enamored of routine.
Fortunately, Dungy thinks his crew has handled the situation well. On Saturday, Dungy wrapped up the team's week of preparation for Monday's game in Minnesota and declared his team ready to play.
"We got off to a slow start," said Dungy of the practice week. "We had the two days off, coming off a very physical game, so Thursday wasn't as sharp as we would like it. But yesterday and today were very good, and I think our guys are looking forward to the challenge. Knowing what Monday Night Football is all about, I think we'll go up and play well."
Whether the Monday Night lead-in following two weeks of heavy media attention serves to further distract his team is an issue hardly worth discussing for Dungy.
"There's not a whole lot of distractions," he said. "I think when you go out and play well, you win. If you're a professional, you've got to be able to go out and play well. We've got to figure out why we're making mistakes. Is it what we're doing, is it the way we're teaching it, is it who's doing it?
"Those are the things you have to look at, but what we have to do is eliminate them. That's what we've tried to do this week in practice, put our guys through what we're going to get in the game. Do it at the tempo we're going to have it and hopefully execute it like that in a game."
After two days of inactivity due to a concussion suffered Sunday in Washington, LB Jamie Duncan returned to the practice field on Saturday. He practiced without incident and declared himself ready to play. Shortly after the practice session ended, Dungy and the team's medical staff officially agreed.
"He really has not had any symptoms all week," said Dungy, "so our feeling is he's going to be able to play."
So Duncan will be able to suit up in Minnesota. However, he is likely to start the game on the sidelines. Dungy also indicated Saturday that he is leaning towards starting rookie Nate Webster at Duncan's usual middle linebacker spot against the Vikings.
"I think Nate will do fine," said Dungy. "It's a big game, but he's played in big games before. I think he's very fired up about the opportunity."
Webster has taken almost all of the first-team snaps this week, including the final plays during Saturday's practice. Dungy would prefer to go with the prepared player, in this case Webster, even if Duncan feels fine and has done his best to get ready.
"You just have to prepare that much more," said Duncan of staying in the mix despite not practicing. "I didn't get the reps, so I had to do other things to compensate for it. Watch more film, be alert to everything that they do. It shouldn't be a problem."
Duncan was eager to get back on the field on Saturday, particularly since he felt fine on Thursday and Friday.
"You enjoy your days off, but you want to be out there practicing, getting better," said Duncan. "It felt good to get back out there."
Tampa Bay named its four Saturday inactives for Sunday's team after practice. They are: T DeMarcus Curry, S David Gibson, FB Charles Kirby and WR Karl Williams. Kirby was just added to the active roster from the practice squad on Thursday. Williams is not on injured reserve but will be unavailable for four to six weeks due to a knee injury suffered in Washington last Sunday.