G Randall McDaniel, here with the unenviable job of blocking DT Warren Sapp, will play in his 200th NFL game on Sunday
The baseball cap crew was missing from Tampa Bay's practice on Wednesday.
At every workout, you have several distinct groups: the units on the field, the second or first teams waiting to switch out, the small passel of kickers and snappers, the coaches…and the guys in baseball caps.
That would be the injured players, those folks not hurt enough to be stretched out on a training table or put on injured reserve, but not well enough to participate in practice. It's early November, so most teams in the NFL have at least a small group of guys just watching.
Not the Bucs, at least not right now. There are five players on the Bucs' injury report, but all five of them practiced on Wednesday. That included linebacker Shelton Quarles, who has missed all but one half of the last three games and is still considered questionable due to a groin strain. Quarles participated fully in practice, giving Head Coach Tony Dungy faith that he'd have a full complement of players to choose from against the Packers.
"We didn't have many problems, so I think we're going to be pretty close to full strength by Sunday," said Dungy.
Dungy admitted a little surprise that his crew was so healthy this far into the season.
"It's a good sign," he said. "Again, I think we've been very fortunate. These guys worked hard in the offseason and I think our conditioning level is good. I think we've done as much as we've can, and we've been fortunate we haven't had any major injuries."
That didn't mean that Dungy was pleased with every aspect of practice on Wednesday. The team has strung together several weeks of strong workouts – and the results have been obvious on the last two Sundays – but the pattern has usually seen the Bucs do their best work later in the week. This week started out the same way.
"It was kind of a typical Wednesday," said Dungy. "We had some new things and some new alignments for the look squad and things. So it wasn't quite as sharp as we'd like, but we had good effort, so I think we're making progress."
Of course, perfect team attendance at a practice pales next to the personal service record of 13th-year guard Randall McDaniel. McDaniel, who hasn't missed a game or a start since 1989, will appear in his 200th NFL game this Sunday when the Bucs take on the Packers.
At least, he's scheduled to play in his 200th game. Despite his iron man streak, McDaniel doesn't take anything for granted.
"I kind of new it was coming up," he said. "But I can't count it yet…I haven't played it yet. For myself, you think about it long enough and say, 'Man, I never thought I'd be around to play that many games.' I'm not sure, but not too many people have played in 200…that's what my roommate from last year said."
McDaniel knows it is a significant milestone, but isn't planning to dwell on it.
"I'll take it when it comes," he said. "I still have to go out and play and take care of business first. When the season is over, I can think about it, sit back and reflect on it."
It's a significant game for the Buccaneers as well, one that could have major repercussions on both their season and the Packers'. But it doesn't take added importance to make a game stick out in McDaniel's mind. He still remembers details from his first NFL game.
"New England Patriots in '88," he said. "I got blindsided on an interception. I remember it well. I played with a patch on my eye that first game. I remember them all…200 games, I've been hit enough, but I still remember most of them."