Tampa Bay center Evan Dietrich-Smith returned to practice on Wednesday after a battle with pneumonia last week kept him out of last Sunday’s 14-13 loss to visiting Cincinnati.
“I’m good,” Dietrich-Smith said. “Pneumonia is no joke.”
To say that the Bucs missed Dietrich-Smith would be an understatement as Garrett Gilkey got his first career start at center – at any level of football – and proceeded to have two bad snaps and four penalties that directly contributed to Tampa Bay’s 10th loss of the season.
“It was a little frustrating because I felt like I could have definitely helped the team out there, but it’s the next man up kind of deal,” Dietrich-Smith said. “That’s how I got my opportunity. If you get an opportunity out there you have to make the most of it.”
Gilkey didn’t, and will return to the bench, while Dietrich-Smith returns to the starting lineup and gets to battle against some familiar foes this week in Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit Lions. Dietrich-Smith, who played for Green Bay from 2009-13, was involved in the famous stomping incident on Thanksgiving Day in 2011 in which Suh stomped on his hand and was suspended two games.
“That happened so long ago it doesn’t really matter to me any more,” Dietrich-Smith said. “He’s a good football player. You have to give him credit. The guy has been an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler, and rightfully so.
“They have a certain want-to up there and they have a new coaching staff and they are playing hard for that staff. It’s been to their advantage. You don’t see them making the penalties and some of the things they used to do in the past. They’re just playing hard now and they’re playing good football. You have to go up there and you have to play hard and match that or it could turn on you real quick.”
The 8-4 Lions are off to a hot start behind new coach Jim Caldwell and are one game back from the lead in the NFC North division. One of the reasons is Detroit’s defensive line, which has four linemen with at least three sacks – led by defensive end Ziggy Ansah’s 6.5. Former Bucs defensive end George Johnson has four quarterback captures for the Lions.
“They are a good front,” Dietrich-Smith said. “They have a lot of high draft picks on their front. They are playing well. They always play well at home. It’s harder to play them at home because they use the crowd noise to their advantage. It’s the loudest stadium and they play on turf – so they are a little bit faster. You’re going to have to resist the initial surge of the crowd and the energy, and go about your business and win the football game. It’s going to be a big surge and a lot of excitement, especially because of their record and what they have in front of them. It’s one of those things where you have to withstand that and you have to keep playing the game.”
Even with Dietrich-Smith back in the lineup, it will be tough sledding for a Bucs offense that has had trouble establishing the running game all season. Detroit has the league’s top-ranked rushing defense, which allows just 65.9 yards per game.
Dietrich-Smith said it’s all about the Bucs matching the Lions’ intensity on Sunday.
“They play hard,” Dietrich-Smith said. “Watch the film from the time the ball is snapped until the whistle is blown. They are either around your quarterback or around wherever the ball is. You, as a player, have to be sure you match their intensity because that’s what it’s going to come down. It’s a little bit of want-to. You have to make sure you are matching whatever it is they are bringing to the table.”
Dietrich-Smith said he’s looking forward to playing the Lions, but solely for the purpose of getting a win. He has no friends in Detroit, especially not Suh.
“I like playing in the NFC North,” Dietrich-Smith said. “It’s fun to play those guys. It will be fun to play against the Packers. But I’m in a different division now and I’m figuring out the new rivalries here and who I do and don’t like. Up there I didn’t like any team I played against.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I bet Suh is losing sleep over this matchup
He said it all; intensity. Detroit is better than their record so I hope we play our best as of yet. Go Bucs!
How about Detroit or any of our opponents matching our intensity? I remember back in 1981 when the Lions were undefeated at home and their adopted fight song “Another One Bites the Dust” had their fans worked up into a tizzy until the mighty Bucs beat them to win the NFC central Division championship. Thousands of people showed up at One Buc Place to welcome home the victors. Those were good times.
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