Head Coach Jon Gruden wants his team to enjoy New Year's Eve on Friday but have an even better Sunday in Arizona
As the new year approaches, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be running away from it.
On Friday, December 31, the Bucs will head out to Phoenix in advance of Sunday's season finale against the Arizona Cardinals. They'll be winding back their clocks two hours while their family members back home are breaking out the party hats.
Of course, the Buccaneers aren't really trying to hold on to 2004. They would just as soon put the year behind them and start to work on a better 2005. When the clock strikes midnight in the Mountain time zone, the Bucs will celebrate along with the rest of Arizona.
"I don't know what time zone, but I'll be ringing in the new year," said Head Coach Jon Gruden. "This one wasn't particularly good for me. I'll make some New Year's resolutions and go from there."
Gruden's main resolution rolled off his tongue without a moment's pause: Win more games. That could actually start on Sunday, when Tampa Bay tries to finish its disappointing '04 campaign on a strong note and go to 1-0 in the 2005 calendar year.
As such, this is a business trip for the Buccaneers, despite the holiday timing. The team will arrive in the early evening on Friday and give its players just enough time to celebrate the turning of the year. Curfew comes 30 minutes later. There are no team-wide festivities planned for the night.
"We're going to get out there at about six o'clock or so, give these guys a little time to enjoy their New Year and be together, then get ready to play a good football game," said Gruden.
"We'll do the best we can, go out and finish with as much authority as we can and try to gain a little momentum for the offseason."
There was no change in the Bucs' quarterback situation on Thursday. That is, Brian Griese is slated to start if he is healthy but the team has not yet determined whether Griese's sprained right foot will allow him to play. If Griese can't play, second-year man Chris Simms would make his second career start.
Griese took a few snaps on Thursday but did not participate in the full-team drills. Simms continued to take the majority of the first-team snaps. Gruden said he hopes Griese will be able to participate more actively in Friday's 90-minute workout before the team boards a plane for Phoenix.
There were no changes to the Buccaneers' injury report on Thursday. Griese remains questionable and center Sean Mahan (quad strain) is probable.
The Cardinals did make one change to their report. Wide receiver Nathan Poole, who started the week as probable with a thigh injury, has been downgraded to questionable. Poole was one of three Cardinals who did not practice on Thursday, along with tackle Leonard Davis and cornerback Renaldo Hill, both of whom have been ruled out.
Practice Squad Change
Joe Iorio is wearing jersey number 61 in practice this week, but you can call him number 93.
That is, Iorio just slipped under the wire as the 93rd player to appear on either the Bucs' active roster, practice squad or reserve lists since the 2004 regular season began.
The Buccaneers signed Iorio to their practice squad on Thursday, giving the former Penn State guard a few days to practice with the team before the season comes to an end. The Bucs released defensive back Kalvin Pearson from that eight-man unit to make room for Iorio.
Iorio originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2003. He has spent the last two seasons shuttling between the Colts' active roster and practice squad, but he was released from Indy's active roster on December 23. The 6-3, 310-pound guard did not appear in a regular season game in 2003 or 2004.
Pearson signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent prior to the 2004 season and has spent two separate weeks as a member of the team's practice squad.