DE Steve White and the Buccaneers' defensive line must contend with a massive Detroit front wall this Sunday
It was an afternoon better suited for a day at the beach, but no one called in sick at One Buccaneer Place Wednesday. In fact, all but one of the Bucs' 58 players were in pads and on the field today, a very positive development for a team entering the third week of the season.
"We're in pretty good shape," said Head Coach Tony Dungy. "I think everyone practiced today. Dexter Jackson did okay. His conditioning is definitely a factor; he hasn't been able to run full speed for awhile. His ankle is fine. Frank Middleton did fine. So overall, there's really not many problems."
Jackson hasn't played since spraining his ankle at Miami on August 10, but he returned to practice last Friday and was in the mix again on Wednesday. If he can round into football shape by Sunday it could be a big help for the Buccaneers, who are unsure of the availability of rookie S David Gibson in Detroit.
Gibson is the one player mentioned above who couldn't dress for the workout today, though he was on the field staying mentally in touch. Gibson has a foot sprain and the team believes he'll be recovered by Sunday, but he remains the only player as bad as 'questionable' on the team's injury report.
LB Shelton Quarles gave the team a mild scare midway through practice when he was inadvertently kicked in the head during seven-on-seven drills. Quarles stayed down for a moment, then rolled over to the sideline, where trainers tended to him. Quarles was okay, however, and was able to return to practice.
It was another hot one out on the One Buc Place turf on Wednesday, but that has become something of a non-issue to the team. Nearly every practice afternoon has been stiflingly hot and humid for the past three weeks, yet the team has remained efficient and productive. Rather than wilting, the Bucs have strung together three straight weeks of practices that have pleased the coaching staff. That does not always happen.
Dungy believes his team is practicing well because it is highly motivated. This particular week, the Bucs are gearing up for an early first-place showdown, and they must play it in a venue that has given them trouble in recent years, the Pontiac Silverdome.
"I think the guys realize the significance of the game and how tough it's going to be up there," said Dungy. We practiced with that in mind. I thought it was good."
As usual, the Bucs' substitutes formed 'look' teams in practice in order to simulate the opposing team's offense and defense. That posed a bit of a problem for the Bucs this week, because the Lions sport a massive offensive line. Detroit's five projected starters weigh an average of 329 pounds, according to the Lions' roster, and that type of size is difficult to fake.
"We really can't simulate that," said Dungy. "We put George Hegamin and Frank (Middleton) in there, so they got close. But we couldn't quite get the job done."
They also can't be exactly sure of how the Lions will employ their running game, now that Barry Sanders has been replaced by former Jaguar James Stewart. The only thing the Bucs are sure of is that the Lions will try to establish the run.
"Stewart is more of a north-south runner (than Barry Sanders)," said Dungy. "I would expect them to run inside at us, but we really don't have much to base it on other than what they've done against us in the past."