QB Shaun King looks for an open man during Saturday's spirited practice
This is not a weekend to unwind for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The calendar says Saturday, but the Bucs' practice schedule reads Friday and, more importantly, the National Football League slate says the St. Louis Rams will be in town on Monday. Emotions are running high in Tampa for a rematch of last year's NFC Championship, and Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy believes that can be a good thing.
"I've never seen a team too emotional," said Dungy. "I think you can get high, but I think emotions are good. You just have to be fundamentally sound and do your job, but you always want to be emotional and I'm sure we will be with so much riding on the game."
The Bucs held their last full-scale workout for that game on Saturday, a two-hour practice that began at 11:00 a.m. It is the team's usual Friday regimen, but an extra players' day off on Wednesday pushed the schedule back by one day. That means the Bucs will have their normal light day on Sunday and a chance to watch their NFL rivals in action in the afternoon.
That's humorously known as 'TV-scouting' in the NFL, and Dungy and his crew will have the opportunity to watch Green Bay play at Minnesota or other playoff-impacting contests.
"We probably will get a little bit (of TV scouting in)," said Dungy. "We'll have our regular practice in the morning and then try to get some rest. But there will be some interesting games this weekend."
Besides some plans to get in some last-minute holiday shopping, Dungy wasn't looking ahead to the rest of the weekend. He was focused on the current efforts of his team, which put together another pleasing practice on Saturday.
"I think the last two days we were pretty energetic and spirited," said Dungy. "We didn't have many mistakes. We practiced the way you think we would getting ready for a big game. The end of the week was good."
For the second straight day, only one Buc failed to practice: LB Alshermond Singleton. Singleton has been ruled out for Monday's game due to a sprained left knee suffered two weeks ago. Otherwise, no player on the Tampa Bay roster is considered any worse than 'probable' on the team's injury report, meaning Dungy will be playing with an almost full deck on Monday.
That would have been considered unlucky last Sunday, when T Pete Pierson left the game in Miami with a pulled left calf muscle. Early indications weren't too positive for Pierson, but he showed marked improvement on Monday and has continued to progress quicker than expected. Pierson practiced on Saturday for the second straight day.
"Pete did okay," said Dungy after Saturday's workout. "We're probably going to see how he does on Monday night during the warm-up. We'll make our decision then, but he's better than we thought he would be, so I think he has a chance to play."
There's even less mystery surrounding FB Mike Alstott, who has made his own rapid recovery from a knee injury similar to Singleton's.
"He's a go at this point," said Dungy.
Singleton was one of four Bucs added to the inactive list for Monday's game on Saturday. The other three were G Cosey Coleman, DE John McLaughlin and WR Frank Murphy.
In addition to a short Saturday, the Bucs will also have most of Monday to take it easy before the big game.
"We'll have short meetings in the morning and then just a last-minute walk-through," said Dungy. "Then it will be pretty much game-planning."
Chances are, the majority of the players would prefer to get straight to the action.
"I think everyone will be (champing at the bit) until we start the game," said Dungy. "You just try to rest and relax as much as you can, but it's always tougher waiting for those Monday evening games."