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October 7, 2009 @ 11:00 am
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Ward Returns To Practice

Written by Jim
Flynn
Jim Flynn

Jim
Flynn

Former Editor-in-Chief E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Derrick Ward returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday's game with a knee injury. He is expected to play vs. the Eagles. Plus, more information on the signing of DE Maurice Evans and K Shane Andrus in this notebook.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field at One Buccaneer Place Wednesday in preparation for their next opponent - the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bucs sported shells (helmets, jerseys, shoulder pads and shorts) for the workout.

Bucs running back Derrick Ward (knee) and quarterback Byron Leftwich (hip) returned to practice today after missing all of last week with their respective ailments.

Ward had full participation in practice and is expected to play vs. the Eagles.

Wide receivers Antonio Bryant (knee) and Michael Clayton (ribs), and defensive end Gaines Adams (groin) were limited in practice today.

Bucs center Jeff Faine (triceps), defensive end Kyle Moore (knee), cornerback Torrie Cox (ankle) and running back Earnest Graham (hamstring) were held out of Wednesday's workout.

ANDRUS PLANS TO CAPITALIZE ON KICKING OPPORTUNITY
New Tampa Bay kicker Shane Andrus is excited about his opportunity to kick for the Buccaneers.

It's been a long time coming for the first-year kicker, who originally entered the NFL in 2006 as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts.

Andrus has spent time in camps with the Colts and New York Giants. He even signed with the Bucs earlier in the offseason, but was released after Tampa Bay signed Mike Nugent, the kicker he now replaces.

Nugent was just 2-of-6 on field goal attempts in four regular season games with the Bucs. He missed two field goals (49 and 48 yards out) in Tampa Bay's 16-13 loss to Washington on Sunday, which led to his release the following day.

Andrus, who played collegiately at Murray State, had a brief stint with Tampa Bay during the offseason and was one of several kickers brought in to work out for the team last month. He tried out for the Buccaneers again on Monday and was signed to a contract.

"Mike had ample opportunities that we feel great about," said Morris. "Mike had a chance to win a game for us the other day, and if he makes those two field goals and we win it we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now. But he didn't, so we move on and get a new kicker in Shane. We're giving him his opportunity. We'll see what happens in the game."

Andrus has never kicked a field goal in an NFL regular season game, but did have three kickoffs this year for the Colts in Week 1, one of which was a touchback. He was also 5-of-6 on field goal tries during the 2009 preseason.

Nugent's misfortune led to the opportunity of a lifetime for Andrus.

"This is what I've been wanting my whole career," said Andrus. "This is my fourth year in the NFL and I've only had one active game. This is all I've wanted. I hope everything goes well."

In 2007, Andrus played in NFL Europe, making 14-of-17 field goals for Hamburg, helping the team win a World Bowl championship. He was 4-of-4 from 40-49 yards out, but missed his two attempts from beyond 50 yards.

Andrus believes he has the accuracy and leg strength to kick in the NFL.

"Indoors I warm-up 60 yards and in," said Andrus. "Outside, in a game situation, probably 55 or 54 yards out [is my range]. I feel comfortable hitting that for sure.

"In college I kicked a 52-yarder to beat [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo's team," said Andrus. "It probably would have made it by about 65 yards. It was the best ball I've ever kicked in my life."

BUCS SIGN DE EVANS
The Buccaneers signed free agent defensive end Maurice Evans to their active roster Wednesday.

Evans fills the roster spot opened by cornerback Marcus Hamilton, who was released Monday.

The 6-foot-2, 284-pound Evans originally entered the NFL with the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent. The rookie defensive lineman has bounced around a bit, playing for the Giants, Bucs and Carolina Panthers.

Tampa Bay released Evans on Sept. 14 when the Bucs signed free agent DE Tim Crowder to their active roster.

A standout at Penn State, Evans was an early-entry junior in the NFL Draft. He registered 3.5 sacks in his final season at Penn State. He was suspended three games during his junior season after being arrested on marijuana charges.

The Buccaneers have an extra spot on their active roster due to the fact that safety Tanard Jackson, who returned from his four-game suspension this week, has a one-week exemption on the active roster.

BUCS PREPARING FOR EAGLES' TRICKY OFFENSE
Tampa Bay's defense currently ranks 31st in the NFL, and this week doesn't get any easier as the Bucs are preparing for the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the fourth-ranked offense in the NFL.

One of the main reasons why the Eagles have fared so well offensively is because of their diverse group of quarterbacks.

Eagles Pro Bowl QB Donovan McNabb has missed the past three games due to a rib injury he sustained in Week 1. However, backup QB Kevin Kolb, a former second-round pick, played well in his place, completing 64.6 percent of his passes for 741 yards and tossing four touchdowns and three interceptions.

McNabb will return to action this week vs. the 0-4 Bucs, but he won't be the only quarterback Tampa Bay sees in this game.

The 2-1 Eagles signed QB Michael Vick a few months after he was released from jail this summer. Philadelphia head coach and offensive play caller Andy Reid is using Vick in creative ways, including the Wild Cat formation.

McNabb and Vick each have rushed for over 3,000 yards and combined for 48 touchdowns on the ground during their pro careers. Both former first-round picks are considered tremendous athletes.

In addition, the Eagles have used running back Brian Westbrook and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, among others, to line up at quarterback in an effort to keep opposing defenses off balance.

Needless to say, the Bucs defense has it work cut out vs. the Eagles offense on Sunday.

"You're talking about several quarterbacks back there," said  Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan. "They have different packages where you really have to be on your assignment. Otherwise, you'll lose the ball. Half the time when we're watching film the video guy is losing the ball. It's a very diverse offense, so we just have to be on our assignments and details."

Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates believes the Eagles offense could become even more creative now that McNabb is back on the football field.

"We've watched that tape and it is very interesting," Bates said of the Eagles. "Now that McNabb is back we're not sure what we're going to get. Kolb did a good job. He completed 70 percent of his passes, and I believe all three of his interceptions were in the New Orleans game. Of course, Vick comes in and takes six or seven snaps in the last ball game, and now they've had two weeks to prepare for us. They could some more creative things if they so choose. It's quite a preparation in getting our guys ready for what they may see.

"You have to be prepared for everything. And if they come out and surprise-package it you have to be able to adjust on the sideline. We're preparing for as much as we can possibly see, and we're anticipating also getting some new looks."

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