Tampa Bay has four players on its injury report, and three of them are questionable for Sunday's game against Atlanta.
Wide receiver Joey Galloway (sprained ankle), center Sean Mahan (neck stinger) and defensive tackle Dewayne White (strained calf) will be limited in practice this week and are questionable for the game vs. the 9-2 Falcons.
Should Mahan not be able to play Sunday, left guard Matt Stinchcomb will likely start at center. Either rookie G Jeb Terry or G Matt O'Dwyer, whose 21-day deadline to return from the physically unable to perform list, will expire Tuesday, would be active should Stinchcomb have to fill in for Mahan.
"Yes, it is almost D-day," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said when asked about O'Dwyer's status. "We are still gathering all the medical facts to see where he is. He has a long rehab with the pectoral muscle. We will take a look at Sean Mahan's injury. We will have something for you shortly."
Quarterback Brian Griese has a right hip flexor, and although he'll be limited on the practice field at One Buccaneer Place, the Bucs will list him as probable when they release their official injury report Wednesday.
GRUDEN CONCERNED ABOUT PITTMAN'S FUMBLES:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is pleased with running back Michael Pittman's production. He's rushed for 594 yards (4.2 avg.) and six touchdowns and caught 25 passes for 280 yards and three touchdowns through eight games this season.
However, Gruden is just as disturbed by Pittman's inability to hold onto the ball on a consistent basis. On Sunday, Pittman lost two fumbles en route to a 21-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. He also had a costly fumble in St. Louis a few weeks ago, and now has four fumbles (all four lost) on the season.
"It is alarming because he has historically not been a fumbler," said Gruden. "A couple of the fumbles have been from the blind pursuit where he's broken contain and he chooses to cut it back into the pursuit, and out of his vision the ball is dislodged. It's an area that he obviously has to improve on. I'm also aware that he's carrying the load every down, as a runner, as a receiver. Fatigue might be setting in. But it's an area that we have to eliminate from his play because he is playing extremely well for us."
COX TO REMAIN BUCS' NICKEL CORNERBACK?:
The Bucs played second-year cornerback Torrie Cox instead of Mario Edwards in nickel situations on Sunday. While Cox had earned the nickel job just over a week ago by picking off a pass and returning it 55 yards for a touchdown in the game against San Francisco, he struggled to cover Panthers rookie wide receiver Keary Colbert on Sunday.
Colbert caught two touchdowns, and Cox was responsible for coverage on both plays, including Colbert's 40-yard touchdown reception with just :20 remaining in the game. While those plays were tough to swallow, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Cox will only get better with more playing time.
"We have talked about the past few weeks with how well Torrie Cox is playing," said Gruden. "The better he plays the more opportunities he will get to play. We have made a decision as a staff to give him more snaps in the nickel yesterday, feeling that he deserved that. Unfortunately, he got bit hard a couple of times."
GRUDEN IMPRESSED WITH PLAY FROM DEFENSIVE TACKLES:
Although they've been without defensive tackles Anthony McFarland, Ellis Wyms and Damian Gregory, the Bucs have been pleased with the play of Dewayne White and Chidi Ahanotu.
White recorded three tackles, one pass breakup, one sack and blocked a field goal on Sunday in Carolina. White, who spent all of his rookie season (2003) playing at defensive end but moved to defensive tackle when the Bucs lost Wyms and Gregory for the season, now has 4.5 sacks on the season, which ranks tied for second on the team.
"Well, if you think of Ellis Wyms who has been gone for sometime or Anthony McFarland who plays the under tackle, versatility is a big part of what these guys need to do on this defense," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "Certainly, Dewayne White can play the end position. He can be a good nickel rusher as the inside player and he is getting stronger and bigger as days go by. Due to the depletion of players that we have had there we asked him to go inside and slug away. He has done quite well. We are pleased with Dewayne White."
Ahanotu, who signed three weeks ago after the Bucs learned they would be without McFarland for the rest of the season, has delivered 2.5 sacks in three games as Tampa Bay's starting under tackle.
"It is unbelievable really," Gruden said of Ahanotu. "He is out of the league, he is sitting over here in Tampa because things did not work out for him in Miami. I credit him tremendously. He is a great guy. He is a pro football player. He plays with great effort for every play that he is out there. He gives everything he has. I think the players respect him also tremendously."
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on whether there is still a shot at getting into the playoffs:
"Yes. I think we have a shot to win any game we play. I don't look too far down the road. We can eliminate three or four plays per game. We'll play you. We'll play you. We'll be there. We'll fight you. We just have to find a way to get the horse in the stable a little bit better."
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