Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Taking Stock in Dunn

Bucs RB Warrick Dunn seems to have taken a turn for the better in his recovery from a foot sprain suffered 10 days ago

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RB Warrick Dunn tested his injured foot on Wednesday under the supervision of Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli

If Warrick Dunn were traded on NASDAQ, he'd be a tech stock.

How else to describe the volatile ups and downs in Dunn's status over the last two weeks?

On the first play of the fourth quarter against Minnesota on September 30, Dunn took a handoff around left end and picked up 20 yards, but he suffered a sprained right foot in the process. Though he was in enough pain to miss the next three plays, he did return to the game long enough to score on a six-yard touchdown run that necessitated several cuts on the injured foot.

He did not, however, play the rest of the fourth quarter. Down. An X-ray during that final period revealed that there was no bone break in the foot. Up.

After the Buccaneers returned home from Minneapolis that night, Dunn spent just minutes in the training room before heading home, walking out the door under his own power. Another jump up. When he reported back to the training room Monday morning, however, the foot had swelled dramatically and he could barely put any weight on it. A sudden dip down. Would he play the next week against Green Bay? Time to sell that stock.

That afternoon, Head Coach Tony Dungy reported that the initial prognosis on Dunn was an absence of three to four weeks, later adjusted down to two to four when he felt better on Tuesday. By Wednesday, he was on the injury report as 'doubtful' instead of 'out,' a reflection of his quicker-than-expected improvement. Up, but no frenzied buying at this point.

Magnetic resonance image (MRI) tests revealed no serious ligament damage, as was originally feared, so the Bucs casted up Dunn's right foot and told him to rest for the remainder of the week. That treatment – casting completely immobilizes the foot, giving it optimum rest – proved to be a wise move, as Dunn came out of it on Friday much improved, though not good enough to play against Green Bay last Sunday.

Now it's Wednesday of the following week, 10 days after the initial injury, and the floor might be heating up on that Dunn stock. Not only has he been upgraded to questionable, but he was expected to make an early return to the practice field on Wednesday. A surge upward.

"Actually, Warrick's doing pretty well," said Dungy. "We'll see how he does at practice. He's going to try to do a few things during individual drills and we'll see how far along he is."

The Bucs practiced from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and while Dunn didn't join in the team work, he did do some running on the side with Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli. Dunn appeared to run without discomfort and was even able to make light cuts to the left and right. He did stop to remove his right shoe several times at the beginning of the session, but only to adjust the fitting of a pad on the foot.

Given Dunn's obvious eagerness to play, this is one stock that might be headed for a notable performance.

"He's definitely going to be back next week and might possibly be back this week," said Dungy, "so at the outside it's going to be three weeks where we thought originally it might be four to five. He's a little bit ahead of schedule.

The Bucs, of course, have diversified their portfolio by giving fullback Mike Alstott a longer look. Alstott shouldered virtually the entire rushing load Sunday against Green Bay and responded with just the performance the Bucs needed – 77 yards on 15 carries and the game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Dunn and Alstott have always co-existed peacefully in the Bucs' backfield, but Dunn was named the primary ballcarrier heading into 2001 and might be eager to return before that role is compromised.

"I think he got better as the game went on and he ran tough like Mike always does," said Dungy of Alstott, who ranks third on the Bucs' all-time rushing chart, just behind Dunn. "I think the more he ran it, the more back in the groove he got. A couple of the runs he made in the third and fourth quarter, those might have been available in the first quarter, too, but as he got geared up to it, he saw the holes a little bit better."

Dunn will remain questionable on the Bucs' injury report but will take a larger turn in practice on Thursday, probably participating up until the team starts into its full-team, 9-on-7 drills.

"I think he's doing okay," said Dungy. "We're going to try to get him into a little practice tomorrow and if he keeps progressing maybe get a little more on Friday. We'll make a decision after Friday's practice if he's good enough to go."

As for Dunn, he left the field in good spirits on Wednesday but with little to share. In regards to his chances of playing against the Titans, he offered up this assessment: 'Fair to partly cloudy.

So there you have it. As it has been for the last two weeks, Dunn's status for Sunday remains up in the air. Buy at your own risk.

**

Warrick Dunn wasn't the only player to return to practice on Wednesday. Defensive tackle James Cannida, who has been out since the final preseason game in Atlanta (August 31) with a knee sprain, also hit the field again for the first time in over a month.

Cannida's injury was an medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain, similar to the one suffered by punter Mark Royals in training camp but a bit more severe. He has missed the first three games and is still listed as 'doubtful' on the injury report, but he took the first step on Wednesday to returning to action on October 21 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In fact, Cannida did more at practice than Dunn, participating with his D-line teammates in the individual drills. Though he pulled back during the team drills, which feature heavy contact for the linemen, Cannida did continue to run on his own on the unoccupied field. Dungy indicated on Wednesday that his stalwart defensive tackle substitute will probably not play this Sunday in Tennessee.

**

Dunn was actually one of five starters who did not practice on Wednesday. Linebacker Derrick Brooks (foot), safety John Lynch (hip), TE Dave Moore (ankle) and wide receiver Jacquez Green (groin) all sat out due to injuries suffered against the Packers but hope to be fully involved in the workouts by Friday. Moore will probably suit up for the whole Thursday practice; the other three will likely see limited action on Thursday with the hopes of being cleared to go at the end of the week.

"I think, with the exception of Warrick, they should be able to play and they should be in practice by Friday, but right now they're not at practice," said Dungy. "That makes it a little tougher. Other guys have to do a little bit of double duty, but we made it through."

During Wednesday's practice, two other Buccaneers were tended to by the trainers, but neither is likely to miss any time. Fullback Jameel Cook jammed a finger when he caught it a teammates jersey and defensive end Marcus Jones was shaken up and appeared a bit dizzy after a collision at the line of scrimmage.

Guard Cosey Coleman (knee) and wide receiver Reidel Anthony (shoulder) are both on the team's injury report but were able to practice Wednesday without limitation.

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