With RB Cadillac Williams sitting out Thursday's practice, there were more reps for RB Michael Pittman
Although Thursday's practice included Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Dan Buenning and middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, Head Coach Jon Gruden remained cautious as to their availability for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.
"Questionable, they're still going to be questionable," Gruden said. "Both guys practiced, which is encouraging. We were in pads all day today and yesterday, so they were able to at least put the gear on and get work done. We'll see how they are tomorrow and as we get on the plane Saturday."
Buenning, who started all 17 games at left guard in 2005, has been nursing an ankle injury that he suffered in the Buccaneers' final preseason game against the Houston Texans. His injury, coupled with fellow guard Davin Joseph's knee injury, has caused the Bucs to go with a starting guard tandem of Jeb Terry and Sean Mahan.
Quarles has been bothered by a groin injury that kept him out of the season opener, in which linebacker Barrett Ruud started at middle linebacker and notched eight tackles.
Also listed on Thursday's injury report were running back Cadillac Williams (back), cornerback Brian Kelly (foot) and tight end Dave Moore, who suffered a rib injury in the game against the Baltimore Ravens.
"We added Carnell Williams to the injury report as probable," Gruden said. "He did not practice today. His back flared up a little bit. We expect him to play in the game, but he did not practice today. Hopefully he will tomorrow. Brian Kelly practiced a little bit today. He has a sore foot. He's also on the injury list as probable. We downgraded Dave Moore to doubtful."
Moore's injury triggered the Wednesday's practice-squad signings of long-snapper Andrew Economos and tight end Keith Heinrich. Economos could be elevated to the active roster to take over Moore's special teams duties, but it was the recently-acquired tight end Doug Jolley who Gruden mentioned after Thursday's practice as the potential long-snapper against Atlanta.
"Right now it would be Doug Jolley as the snapper, so that would be decision that we make here in the next day or so, obviously," Gruden said.
Kelly's foot injury, Gruden explained, is most likely a result of the wear-and-tear of training camp. Gruden said he is hopeful that Kelly will be fine after some rest.
As for his star running back's back problems, Gruden was optimistic that Williams would play against the Falcons and reiterated his belief in Williams' toughness.
"It's not the heat," Gruden said, when asked about the possible causes of Williams' back issues. "It's just that he's got some back spasms. It's not an uncommon occurrence. We hope with the day off he'll be ready to go tomorrow.
"He's one of the toughest guys who I've met, and obviously this is not something that's just gone away here overnight like maybe we had hoped, so we held him out today. Hopefully he gets a good night's sleep and a day's rest helps him."
The Long and the Short of It
As a team, the Buccaneers are pretty average.
Relax – that's not an assessment of the team's skill level or playoff possibilities. Rather, when its roster is combined and compared with other team rosters in terms of average height and weight, Tampa Bay is right around the league averages.
For instance, the average Buc player stands 6.14 feet tall and weighs 244.13 pounds. The average player across the entire NFL stands 6.16 feet tall and weighs 247.73 pounds. The Bucs are a bit removed from the NFL's average age of 26.70 years old, coming in at an average of 27.43 years old.
These numbers come courtesy of the NFL's annual survey of opening-day rosters, released Thursday. It is through this release that one learns that the defending-champion Pittsburgh Steelers have the most players of less than six feet tall in the NFL (16) and that the Indianapolis Colts have the most players who weigh less than 200 pounds (13). The Miami Dolphins have the most players who weigh more than 300 pounds, with 15 massive men.
The Bucs? They have 10 sub-six-footers, 12 players lighter than 200 pounds and 10 men who tip the scales at 300 or more.
The NFL's release also identified the colleges with the most former players in the NFL. Not surprisingly, Miami leads the way with 42, though there are currently no former Hurricanes on the Bucs' roster. Florida State, which is represented in Tampa by Derrick Brooks and Greg Spires, is next on the list with 41. Florida leads the way on the Bucs' roster with three players – Earnest Graham, Ike Hilliard and Kenyatta Walker – but is just seventh on the all-NFL list with 35 players.