S Dexter Jackson returned to practice on Friday, running in special teams and individual drills
Friday practices at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' complex are generally a little shorter than Wednesday and Thursday, but the pace is just as brisk. This Friday, the heat was also stifling for the third straight day, but the Buccaneers' light mood seemed to defy the tough conditions.
It appeared to be a looseness born of confidence. Head Coach Tony Dungy indicated that the team had a very strong week of practice, and as it wound down well on Friday, anticipation began to build for Sunday's game against Chicago.
"I think our guys are looking forward to being at home," said Dungy, explaining the high spirits. "Division games are always tough, they're always big. We had good concentration and good work."
Actually, WR Jacquez Green had something less than a smile on his face for the second half of practice, but it had nothing to do with the team's performance. On a pass play from the goal line, Green got tangled up with rookie LB Nate Webster, and Webster stepped on Green's right foot. The receiver was in a lot of pain, but he did return to practice and will not be added to the injury report.
S Dexter Jackson, who is on the injury report, returned to practice today for the first time since before the team's preseason game at Miami on August 10. Jackson suffered a sprained ankle in Miami and was expected, at the time, to miss four to six weeks. The current plan, which fits into that diagnosis, is to have Jackson back for the team's trip to Detroit on September 17. Though he participated in special teams and individual drills on Friday, he will remain doubtful on the team's injury report and is therefore a long shot to play.
WR Karl Williams, who started the week on the injury report with a shoulder sprain, was removed from that list on Thursday and made it through another practice on Friday without incident. That makes him the front-runner for the punt and kickoff return jobs once again. Dungy appeared reluctant to completely tip his hand on that decision, but later confirmed that Williams is the likely choice.
"I think it's going to be Karl Williams, assuming that he's going to be fine," said Dungy. "We'll test it out, but more than likely it will be Karl.
"If he's not able to go, Andre Hastings would be up. That would more than likely put Aaron (Stecker) up to be our kickoff returner. So injuries might dictate a couple things, but there are probably no big changes (to the inactive list).
From the practice sideline on Friday, observers could hear the team's offensive staff repeatedly giving praise to the defense. That is, the Bears' defense, or the Bucs' scout team that was imitating it. Tampa Bay's scout squad did an excellent job of showing the Bucs' offense what it could expect on Sunday, an important step since Dungy thinks the Bears' defense has been overlooked. Much of this week's game discussion has centered around scrambling QB Cade McNown and the Bucs' efforts to contain him.
"Good defense…it's improving," said Dungy. "I think the second year in their system, they have a better understanding of what they're doing. They got some players in the offseason – Thomas Smith, Phillip Daniels, Brad Culpepper, Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown – guys that we've liked, and I think it's going to pay off for them. They played well in the preseason, and they've played us well two games in a row. We're expecting them to be ready."
Brown is just a rookie, the Bears' second-round draft choice, but he is starting at free safety and already turning some heads.
"Mike is a good player," said Dungy. "He's a guy that we had our eye on in the draft, and I think he's going to play well for them for a long time