FB Mike Alstott and the Buccaneers earned an early exit from practice on Friday
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy is, by his own insistence, one of the least superstitious men in sports. Yet here it is Friday and his players are walking off the practice field 20 minutes early, simply because that seem schedule has led to victories the last two weeks.
Coach? Aren't you getting a little superstitious on us?
"No, I'm into routine," said Dungy with a laugh. "You play well, you keep the routine the same."
An even better word might be incentive. There's not much players appreciate more than a quick end to practice on a hot day. There's not much coaches appreciate more than a 'W'.
"We did it two weeks ago because it was hot out and we'd had a good two-minute the day before," said Dungy. "And we won, so (the players) kind of got me to keep the same routine."
So last Friday's practice, and this Friday's, ended before the team's pair of two-minute drills, which usually end the workout. Fortunately, the Bucs looked sharp in that period on Thursday, giving the coaches confidence that the team is ready.
The Bucs' non-participation rate in practice dropped by 50% on Friday. Only G Kevin Dogins (foot sprain) and QB Joe Hamilton (tonsillitis) sat out the activities on Thursday, and Dogins returned to full practice on Friday. That left Hamilton as the only sidelined player and the Bucs feeling good about their overall health.
Most notably, S Dexter Jackson remains on track to possibly see his first action this Sunday. Jackson, who was having a stellar preseason before suffering an ankle sprain in a game at Miami on August 10, made it through all three practices this week and is feeling no ill effects from the injury.
Still, Jackson is not yet a lock to play against the Lions.
"He's running okay," said Dungy. "It's a question of conditioning and where he is after not really running for four weeks, if he's ready to play a full game. Injury-wise, he's really fine."
Dungy said Jackson, who was fighting for a larger role in the defense before incurring his injury, would remain in a substitute role if he is activated.
"He'd be the backup safety and play on special teams," said Dungy, "basically the role that David and Eric have been playing."
Sunday's game in the Pontiac Silverdome will mark the Bucs first venture onto artificial turf this season. While it's always a disadvantage playing on the road, the Buccaneers don't think the turf is an added problem.
Dungy, who played on turf routinely in college at Minnesota and in the NFL with Pittsburgh, actually thinks his team can thrive on that surface.
"We think the turf does help us when we're playing our game," he said. "The thing that can happen up there sometimes is they take you out of what you want to do. They're definitely faster on turf, but we think we are also."
Some Bucs, like speedy running back Warrick Dunn, have a historically performed well on turf and may actually be looking forward to the opportunity.
"When you play on it all the time, it's just a way of life and you don't really worry about it," said Dungy. "When you don't play on it much, you just have to get ready to go. But I think with our team and our speed, the way we're built, the turf should be fun for us."