The Tampa Bay Buccaneers managed to practice for the second straight day despite rainy conditions on Wednesday morning.
Two key starters - middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and tight end Kellen Winslow - were limited during Wednesday's workout due to their respective injuries. Ruud is nursing a rib injury he sustained in a 38-7 loss to the Saints. Winslow is dealing with a knee ailment.
That's not good news for the Bucs given the fact that Ruud leads Tampa Bay's defense in tackles and Winslow leads the team in receptions and touchdowns. However, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris believes both players will be able to play in Atlanta on Sunday.
"I don't believe they're [in danger of missing Sunday's game]," Morris said of Ruud and Winslow. "We have to play it day-to-day, but we're looking forward to those guys playing. We feel good about it."
Ruud said that the rib injury would not keep him out of the game against Atlanta. The Buccaneers are going to need Ruud against a Falcons team that averages 123 yards per game on the ground. Atlanta was led by a robust rushing attack last year to made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. This game could be different because the Falcons could be without starting running back Michael Turner, who missed last Sunday's game against the New York Giants with an ankle injury.
"Turner is elite back. If he is not a top five guy he is at least a top 10 guy," Ruud said. "But give credit to their offense, and what [offensive coordinator] Mike Mularkey has brought. They have a good running game. It is not because of one guy. They have a good line and a good scheme. Obviously whenever you lose your top running back it is going to hurt you a little bit, but they have a good scheme."
"I think it is the toughest run scheme I play all year. They do a lot of plays first of all. They do a lot of misdirection, and really mess with your eyes as a linebacker. I think it is really a tough scheme to prepare for."
Not only will Ruud have to try and shut down the Falcons running game, he will have to play some pass coverage against Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez. The future Hall of Famer Gonzalez has caught a team-leading 52 passes for 583 yards (11.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. Against Tampa Bay last season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs Gonzalez had seven catches for 62 yards.
"This year has been a lot different. I really haven't had to cover guys one-on-one very much in the past," Ruud said. "This year sometimes you could be matched up one-on-one with a receiver, sometimes you get a matchup on a Tony Gonzalez-type guy, or else sometimes you have to cover a running back. You have to be pretty versatile this year. A lot more than in the past."
In addition to Turner, tackle Sam Baker (elbow) and linebacker Curtis Lofton (knee/groin) were limited in practice for the Falcons. Wide receiver Brian Finneran (knee) didn't practice. Tackle Tyson Clabo (knee), safety Erik Coleman (knee), running back Jerious Norwood (hip) and WR Roddy White (knee) had full participation in practice Wednesday.
No Update On Bates
The dust is starting to settle at One Buc Place one day after Bucs head coach Raheem Morris demoted Jim Bates as defensive coordinator and took over play calling duties for Tampa Bay's defense, which ranks 27th overall and 32nd against the run.
Although he was demoted, Bates still is part of the Bucs organization, or at least that's what Morris said Tuesday while suggesting the two men were still attempting to work together during the transition.
It appears as though Bates' status with the team has not changed over the last 24 hours.
"It's the same as it was yesterday and we'll leave it at that," said Morris.
Morris is in the process of moving the Bucs back to more of a one-gap, Cover 2 defensive system, which the team excelled in for years under former Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Like Kiffin, Morris hopes can get find a way to help this unit improve and make the Bucs defense dominant again.
"I hope it's a good imprint," said Morris. "I hope it's something that's going to remain there and become a fossil."
Quote of the Day
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris on four of Tampa Bay's next five games being on the road.
"The NFL is tough. By the time you look up you're 1-9 and you have to figure out how to get better. That's what I'm doing right now. You can't worry about how tough a stretch is or how tough the road ahead of you is. Nobody wants to hear you cry; just deliver the baby."