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January 1, 2010 @ 10:00 am
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Friday Buccaneers Injury Update

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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Four Bucs are listed as questionable for Sunday's season finale against Atlanta, but C Jeff Faine, who has been struggling with a sore back, is not one of them. DT Roy Miller, DE Michael Bennett, RB Derrick Ward and LG Jeremy Zuttah are questionable. Also, Raheem Morris discusses Josh Freeman and Aqib Talib.
Bucs center Jeff Faine missed Thursday's practice with a sore back, but was back at practice on Friday and is expected to play against the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in the 2009 regular season finale at Raymond James Stadium. However, four other injured Buccaneers are listed as questionable for the Falcons game. Those players are: left guard Jeremy Zuttah (toe), running back Derrick Ward (knee/thigh), defensive tackle Roy Miller (hamstring) and defensive lineman Michael Bennett (toe).

Faine, tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), defensive tackle Chris Hovan (back) and Antonio Bryant (groin) are listed as probable. Bryant sat out Friday's practice with his injury.

With Bill Cowher-to-Tampa Bay rumors swirling, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris is looking to stave off that possibility with a strong finish. The Bucs are coming off impressive back-to-back road wins over Seattle and New Orleans and are trying to win three straight contests by beating Atlanta on Sunday in the 2009 regular season finale.

Morris insists that during the team's 1-12 start, he never lost his confidence in his players or coaching staff and saw the improvement coming that led to the team's two-game winning streak.

“I was probably the most confident 1-and-whatever coach in the history of the NFL," Morris said. "It’s about results, I understand that. But you’ve got to look at the tape, look at the progress and what you’re building on. The only few times you get down on yourself and figure you had no chance was that Jets game and the Giants game. Maybe it’s the New York teams and we’ve got to fight that demon. But for the most part, we’ve been in every game. When you see that, it’s the next step, the next level – how do you win that game? The last two weeks, we’ve been able to do that.’’

One of the reasons for the team's improvement down the stretch has been more consistent play from quarterback Josh Freeman. Although he has thrown two touchdowns and three interceptions over the past two games, both of which were won by Tampa Bay, Freeman has become more accurate.

In the team's 24-7 win at Seattle, Freeman was 16-of-26 for 205 yards, completing 61.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one pick. In last week's 20-17 overtime win at New Orleans, Freeman completed over 60 percent of his passes for just the third time this year. The rookie from Kansas State completed 67.7 percent of his passes (21-of-31) and threw for 271 yards with two INTs and no touchdowns.

Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, who knew Freeman from his days as K-State's defensive coordinator, believes that Tampa Bay's first-round pick in 2009 is destined for greatness.

“You get that guy, you go get a quarterback,’’ said Morris, addressing the need for a franchise quarterback in 2009. “You eliminate that issue, you build around that guy and you find out what you need for that guy. You do everything you can for that guy to make him successful and then hopefully, 10 years from now, we’re talking about whether he should be a first-ballot Pro Bowler Hall of Fame-type dude and all that jazz. At the same time … patience.’’

While Freeman’s 55.2 percent completion percentage and 16:9 interception-to-touchdown ratio isn’t real positive, Morris said that the 6-foot-6, 260-pound QB's shortcomings are offset by his ability to avoid taking sacks.

“It’s not like he can’t make every throw, it's just a matter of being settled down,’’ Morris said, “Being a big guy, he’s going to lack some accuracy because he’s running out of the pocket. I compare him to a Ben Roethlisberger-type guy. He’ll be a little bit different than a Drew Brees, who goes right through his progressions and the ball is out on time. It’s perfect, it’s nice to watch and it’s not fun to defend. Josh’s ability to throw a guy off of him and still complete a throw is special. I don’t ever want him to lose that.’’

Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris talked about the play of his secondary and had a rather comical thing to say about his fast-talking cornerback Aqib Talib: “Talib has been special on the field all year. He’s a guy in this league right now. Let’s not kid ourselves … he’s a big-time corner. Tanard since he’s gotten back has been really special. Ronde’s been Steady Eddie. Those guys have been playing well back there. They’re gaining confidence, they’re more involved in the game plan. Aqib’s able to talk to me in his language and I understand it.’’

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