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October 22, 2009 @ 10:00 am
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Smith Accepts Wesley's Apology, Returns To Practice

Written by Jim
Flynn
Jim Flynn

Jim
Flynn

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Buccaneers return specialist Clifton Smith returned to practice Thursday and said he's feeling better and hopes to play the Patriots in London. Smith also said Panthers DB Dante Wesley, who caused his concussion, called him and apologized. Smith accepted Wesley's apology. Plus, other injury news from One Buc Place.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back/return specialist Clifton Smith attempted to downplay his concussion Thursday, as well as the hit that caused the injury during the team's 28-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Smith, who does not remember the incident, sustained the head injury while attempting to field a punt late in the second quarter of Sunday's contest. Panthers defensive back Dante Wesley threw a violent hit on Smith well before the ball was anywhere near him.

That hit led to Wesley being ejected from the game and the NFL suspending him for one game without pay.

Smith didn't return to the game and missed Wednesday's practice at One Buc Place. However, Smith appears to be on the mend, evidenced by the fact that he returned to practice in a limited role Thursday.  

"It was a rough couple of days, but I'm good," said Smith, who suffered from headaches on Monday and Tuesday. "I feel a lot better. We'll find out what's going to happen to me in the next couple of days to see whether I can play or not.

"It's more of a precaution than anything. The trainers] are doing a good job of handling it right now. I'm going to do whatever they say."

In addition to the concussion, Smith also had trouble speaking after Tampa Bay's game as a result of Wesley's shoulder and elbow going into his throat as he attempted to track the football through the air. Smith admitted he was concerned afterwards, but tried to downplay the severity of the incident on Thursday.

"I was definitely worried afterwards, but it wasn't as bad as a lot of people that it was," said Smith. "It's football and things happen. I'll bounce back and be good to go.

"Just like [Bucs head coach] Raheem [Morris] said, gunfighters get shot sometimes. I took mine on the chin and we'll move forward from here."

One of the reasons why Smith is able to move on from the incident is because Wesley reached out to him earlier this week to apologize for his vicious hit.

"He called and apologize, and I appreciate it," Smith said of Wesley. "He explained just like he had it in the paper, he was just trying to make a play. It's understandable. He apologized and I accepted his apology and appreciated it. I'll see him again."

Smith exploded onto the scene as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2008. After spending nearly half his rookie campaign on Tampa Bay's practice squad, Smith was promoted to the active roster and never looked back.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Smith, who is referred to by his teammates and coaches as "Peanut," averaged 27.6 yards per kickoff return and 14.1 yards per punt return while scoring twice en route to the Pro Bowl last year.

Smith was averaging 27.9 yards per kickoff return and 8.8 yards per punt return this season before he sustained the concussion Sunday.

The 0-6 Bucs could certainly use Smith, who is considered one of the team's best playmakers, against the 4-2 New England Patriots, who beat Tennessee 59-0 last Sunday.

Although he returned to practice Thursday, Smith will have to wait a few more days before the training staff determines his status for the contest in London.

"I want to play, but it's not up to me," said Smith. "I feel like I can play, but the trainers are doing a good job holding me out right now. We'll find some things out over the next couple of days."

Should Smith not be deemed fit to play vs. the Patriots, Bucs rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter would handle return duties for Tampa Bay.

Stroughter returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown in place of Smith on Sunday. He tied Smith's franchise record for longest kickoff return in team history en route to earning the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.

Although he was sidelined with the concussion, Smith clearly remembers - and thoroughly enjoyed - watching Stroughter score his first NFL touchdown, which nearly helped the Bucs win their first game of the year.

"For a moment like that you can never be too groggy," said Smith. "That was his first NFL touchdown. It was the same way I scored my first NFL touchdown. He tied my record, so I was happy about it.

"Sammie is a great player. I've been telling him since training camp that he's going to be one of the special ones. I was glad to see him perform the way I know he can play."

Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said Smith would travel with the team to London, but suggested there was a chance he wouldn't play against the Patriots.

"Any worries? I'm always worried about any guy that gets a cheap shot delivered to him, and gets a concussion," said Morris. "You are always worried about him obviously, but he is in good hands with our training staff. We trust those guys our training staff and doctors."

In other injury-related news, Bucs defensive tackle Chris Hovan (ankle), who missed Wednesday's practice, had full participation on Thursday. Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (elbow), wide receiver Michael Clayton (hamstring) and defensive tackle Ryan Sims (hand) also had full participation.

Cornerback Aqib Talib, who will be helping to cover Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss Sunday, was added to the injury report Thursday. He was limited in practice due to a hamstring ailment.

"He's been dealing with it for the last four few weeks," Morris said of Talib. "We just held him back today to give him a little rest and we'll see where he is in a few days."

New England has its fair share of injuries heading into Sunday's matchup with Tampa Bay.

Patriots cornerback Darius Butler (ankle), wide receiver Julian Edleman (forearm), tackle Matt Light (knee), running back Sammy Morris (running back) and RB Fred Taylor (ankle) were held out of their second straight day of practice in New England.

New England safety Brandon Meriweather (foot), guard Stephen Neal (not injury related), safety James Sanders (shoulder) and defensive back Shawn Springs (knee) were limited.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (right shoulder), defensive end Jarvis Green (knee), tackle Nick Kaczur (ankle), linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee), wide receiver Randy Moss (shoulder), WR Wes Welker (knee) and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (ankle) had full participation in practice.

The Bucs will travel to London on Friday for their game against the Patriots, which will kick off in Wembley Stadium at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

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