Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Safety Net

John Lynch returned to practice on Friday, but the Bucs continued to prepare as if he would be unavailable against Buffalo

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Lynch donned a helmet instead of a baseball cap on Friday, when he returned to practice with the Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers really hoped to get number 47 back on the practice field this week. Instead, they had to settle for the next best thing: number 20.

S John Lynch, who has represented the Buccaneers and jersey number 47 in two of the last three Pro Bowls, returned to practice on Friday in somewhat of a surprise development. Lynch had dislocated his left shoulder in Chicago on Sunday and, according to Head Coach Tony Dungy, was a long shot to play against Buffalo the next weekend. When Lynch sat out Wednesday and Thursday's workouts, that seemed to confirm Dungy's expectations.

However, Lynch participated in the entire practice on Friday, keeping the door open for a possible return against the Bills. Instead of practicing with the first team defense, however, Lynch donned number 20 to emulate Buffalo's Henry Jones and ran with the scout team.

"I'm still holding out hope that I can play on Sunday," said Lynch, after a post-practice icing session with Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli. "I wanted to give it a test to see how it felt. The reason I was with the scout team was, in the event that I can't play, I wanted to give those guys a chance to get as many reps as possible."

Dungy, of course, welcomed Lynch's presence on the practice field but cautioned against reading too much into it.

"John was trying to see how things were going," said Dungy. "I would say that it's still doubtful right now that he would be able to play, but he's doing better than he was early in the week, so we'll make that decision on Sunday."

Lynch would seem like a good bet to choose to play through whatever pain is associated with the injury, but the deciding factor could be the risk of further damage.

"That's what we're going to try to determine," said Dungy. "At this point, I don't really know, but we'll have the doctors evaluate it and decide at game time. If there is a risk, then he won't play."

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There were no such developments in the status of DE Steve White, who will not play on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle. White did not practice on Friday nor at any point during the week.

Instead, White is wearing a removable cast on his lower leg and foot as the team aggressively tries to rehabilitate his ankle. The hope is that, by ruling him out early for this week's game, there will be enough time to get White ready to play Dallas on December 3.

"It's hard to say," said Dungy of White's long-term prognosis. "We hope (he won't miss more than one game), and that was our purpose in putting him down and keeping him off it all week, rather than trying to go and be 75%, then be out another week. We hope that this will take care of it and he'll be able to go next week."

White was one of four players the team deactivated on Friday, per NFL regulations. Another four players will be put on the inactive list on Sunday, 90 minutes before kickoff.

The Bucs' four Friday inactives were White, FB Mike Alstott, WR Frank Murphy and T DeMarcus Curry.

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White, then, will not be in the sweepstakes this weekend for the team's record-breaking sack. The Bucs have 43 sacks through 11 games, just one shy of the team record set in 1997. Since two sacks will set a new mark and Tampa Bay has been held to fewer than two sacks in just three games this season, it would seem likely that the standard will fall on Sunday. However, two of those three one-sack games have occurred in the last two contests.

"It's been tough for us the last couple of weeks," said Dungy. "We've had some good pressure at times and having gotten the quarterback down."

DT Warren Sapp (11.5 sacks) and DE Marcus Jones (11) are also within striking distance of the Bucs' individual sack record of 13, and those two are responsible for the Bucs' two sacks over the past two weeks. They might have to do a little extra running to pad their stats this weekend.

"We're playing two mobile quarterbacks this week, depending on who plays, so it won't be easy," said Dungy.

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Winds gusted heavily across the Buccaneers' practice fields on Friday and, like Sunday in Chicago, they went directly down the length of the field in one direction. In this case, the Bucs had the wind in their faces when they were traveling from north to south behind team headquarters.

Dungy welcomed the elements, believing that the practice was a good exercise in case the team faced adverse weather again on Sunday in Raymond James Stadium. Early reports show rain as a possibility on Sunday.

"It was very windy today, and we threw against the wind for the most part, then turned it around a little bit in team (drills)," said Dungy. "It was a good simulation today."

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Dungy had the opportunity to do a little 'television scouting' on Thursday, with both of the teams ahead of Tampa Bay in the NFC Central standings in action on Thanksgiving day.

And both the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions were outstanding on the holiday, with the Vikes maintaining their grip on first place by beating Dallas 27-15 and Detroit smothering New England, 34-9.

"They're playing good football right now, Detroit and Minnesota," said Dungy. "Somehow, we've got to get ourselves where we're playing good, consistent football. If we do, I think we can play on a par with them. But Minnesota has 10 wins, Detroit has eight and I think it speaks well for both of them that they've been able to play consistently pretty much throughout the year."

That gives those two squads the one thing that the Buccaneers have lacked this season. Tampa Bay has two winning streaks of three games each plus a losing stretch of four contests. Included in their first streak was a 31-10 win at Detroit, and their second winning skein started off with a 41-13 dismantling of the Vikings.

"It's disappointing to know that they're probably the two hottest teams in the NFC right now and we've beaten one by four touchdowns and one by three touchdowns, and we're kind of in the middle of the pack," said Dungy. "We've got to get ourselves going this week and see if we can get on a hot streak."

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