Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks was named NFC Player of the Week Wednesday for his impressive performance against the Michael Vick-led Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
“Obviously, I am very grateful, very humbled to be honest with you,” Brooks said of his award. “This signifies our whole defense and how we played last week. I am very thankful that I was chosen.”
Brooks recorded a team-high 12 tackles, a career-high two sacks and forced two fumbles and defensed two pass attempts en route to the Bucs’ 27-0 shutout vs. the Falcons.
“You’ve got to watch film to really realize what he did,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Brooks. “He’s all over the field. Forget about the sack, the fumble, the tipped pass on the interception – he makes a sideline-to-sideline pursuit play on Michael Vick that not many guys can make.”
This week’s honor gives Brooks five NFC Defensive Player of the Week awards during his 10-year career. He’s now tied with cornerback Ronde Barber as the all-time leader in that particular category in franchise history.
Brooks, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has recorded a team-leading 127 tackles, three sacks, one interception, three forced fumbles and four passes defensed this season and appears to be headed to his eighth Pro Bowl.
Fans can vote for Brooks and any other Bucs players they feel are worthy of playing in the Pro Bowl in February by visiting NFL.com.
GRAMATICA SIGNS WITH COLTS: It didn’t take long for former Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica to find work.
Just one week after being released by the Bucs, Gramatica signed a contract with the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday.
“That’s great,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Gramatica signing with the Colts. “We wish him well, and hopefully he takes off from there.”
Gramatica, who made just 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) of his field goal attempts this season before being released last week, is reunited with former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy.
However, Gramatica apparently won’t be kicking field goals. The Colts have signed him to be their kickoff specialist.
BUCS CONSIDER CHARGERS GAME A MUST-WIN: Even if Tampa Bay loses to San Diego Sunday, the Buccaneers, who would be 5-8 if that scenario unfolds, would still technically be alive in the race for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.
However, the Bucs aren’t approaching Sunday’s game with that mindset. Instead, they’re treating each of their final four regular season games as playoff games.
“It’s a one-game elimination,” said Bucs safety Dwight Smith. “We don’t think we can make the playoffs at 8-8, so we’re trying not to get an eighth loss. Every game is single-elimination for us.”
The NFC playoff race is wide open. Philadelphia (11-1), Atlanta (9-3), Green Bay (7-5) and St. Louis (6-6) currently lead their divisions. The race for the two NFC Wild Card berths is tight, with Minnesota (7-5) and Seattle (6-6) currently occupying those playoffs spots.
Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, Detroit and Chicago each have 5-7 records and trail the Seahawks by just one game.
Because Seattle defeated Tampa Bay head to head in Week 2, the Seahawks own a tie breaker over the Bucs, which essentially means the Seahawks have a two-game lead over the Bucs with four left to play.
That’s why the Bucs say they can’t think about the playoffs. First, they must find a way to defeat the 9-3 Chargers on Sunday.
“You know that as far as the playoff goes and the wildcard goes, I think that it is important that we focus on San Diego,” said Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway. “To handle our own business and hopefully at the end of the day, hopefully we will come out of the pile. I think we focus on San Diego and whoever is after that. That is exciting for us; early on it just looked like we were going in the wrong direction. I think everyone got down besides the guys in the locker room. Finally, we are going in the right direction. We just have to keep it going.”
Added Bucs defensive end Greg Spires, “We have to find a way to win. This is a big game. Our season is on the line. Everything is on the line. We’ve got to win this game.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive lineman Dewayne White (calf), running back Michael Pittman (knee), safety Dexter Jackson (hamstring) and tight end/long snapper Dave Moore are all probable for Sunday’s game. Safety Jermaine Phillips (forearm) has been upgraded to doubtful.
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