Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden met with the media Thursday after practice. With Sunday's home opener approaching, Gruden updated the status of his players that were injured in the first game against the New Orleans Saints.
"Derrick Brooks did not practice today," said Gruden. "His status is not going to change in terms of the game on Sunday. We'll have to let you know when we get to the stadium. Jeff Garcia was limited, and Maurice Stovall was also limited."
Stovall (back) and Brooks (hamstring) remain questionable on the injury report, and Gruden is not indicating either direction whether he thinks those players will be able to play on Sunday.
"I'd say that [Brooks] is working harder than any guy I've ever seen," said Gruden. "He's day-to-day. If there is any way he can play, then he'll play. The best way I can put it right now is he didn't practice today. We need to get this hamstring right and we'll update you in the next 48 hours.
"[Stovall] I think he is doing better, he returned today but he was limited. We're going to do the best for our football team. We are going to try to play the guys that are the best at their positions that allow us to win every Sunday. Now Maurice is coming back from an injury we don't think is serious, but he's not 100 percent yet. We'll get there soon."
Prior to the Buccaneers afternoon practice, Garcia spoke to the media about the decision made to start quarterback Brian Griese over him. Garcia said that his ankle injury is not major and he could play on Sunday. The veteran quarterback also said that his relationship with Gruden was not fractured. Gruden was asked a number of questions about Garcia, including what needs to be done for Garcia to return as the starting quarterback.
"Well, he has to go out and perform to the standards he has performed to in the past," said Gruden. "At this point in time, I've addressed it. I appreciate his wanting to play, and we're hoping that he can come back and play like he is capable of playing. We have to concentrate on the game. Brain Griese is a good quarterback too. He proved that in training camp and we have to rally around him. Jeff will get an opportunity when we see the Jeff Garcia that we know and really respect.
"We have a fine relationship. Jeff had the opportunity to answer all your questions. He knows exactly where I'm coming from. I'll be happy to talk about the Falcons and what we have to do to win this game. Jeff will not start. I expect him to be active. Hopefully he can get back here soon and play with the style that we all know and need around here."
According to a report on ProFootballTalk.com the Buccaneers were shopping Garcia for a possible trade and were considering cutting him. Gruden was asked if Tampa Bay was looking to deal its starting quarterback from last year's division winning team.
"I don't have any comment on that. I don't have any time for this," said Gruden.
The Buccaneers had two players designated as not participating in practice on the injury report. They were: Brooks and guard Davin Joseph. Players with limited participation were Garcia and Stovall. Tampa Bay had one player on the injury report that had full participation and that was linebacker Matt McCoy with a groin injury.
The Atlanta Falcons had two players limited in practice: kicker Jason Elam (hip) and C Alex Stepanovich (back). Linebacker Coy Wire's ankle injury was listed on the report but had full participation in practice.
Joseph missed the first game of the season with a broken foot and will not play Sunday against Atlanta. However, the third-year player could be back for the third game at Chicago.
"Yeah [Joseph] got the boot off. It is hard. You see guys that are injured like Derrick Brooks, Cadillac [Williams], Davin Joseph, and Jeff's situation is what it is, but that is football. We feel confident that Davin will be back in the next week to two. He won't play Sunday, but his boot is off and his spirits are high," said Gruden.
BUCS EAGER TO PLAY ATLANTA
The Buccaneers will get their first look at what could become a very familiar foe in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The rookie quarterback won the starting spot during training camp and won his first start. He aided that effort by throwing a 62-yard touchdown on his first pass attempt.
"Well, he's got great talent. He was the third pick in the draft," said Gruden. "He has got a great pedigree. He played in an NFL system in college for two different styles of NFL offense. He has all the tangibles and he has tremendous skill, and his experience playing in an NFL style offense that has a lot to do with it."
Even though the Falcons went 4-12 last season, Gruden anticipates Atlanta giving the Buccaneers a big challenge. The Falcons offense ran for over 300 yards en route to beating Detroit by a score of 34-21. With a passing threat and a potential dominant running game, the Buccaneers safeties will be counted on to help make tackles near the line of scrimmage and prevent big-plays downfield.
"[Phillips] and Tanard [Jackson] are both excellent tacklers and run defenders. We have to defend the Falcon offense," said Gruden. "Roddy White is a great, emerging receiver I think. They've got some skilled receivers that are coming into their own. We are going to count on our safeties in the run entry and certainly as tacklers. I think they are very good at and we are going to need them this week that is for sure."
Buccaneers defensive tackle Chris Hovan and the rest of the defense has a singular goal to start attacking the Atlanta offense.
"We don't ever give up the big play here, and we gave up three big plays to New Orleans," said Hovan. "That is something that is corrected. It is fixed. We are going to move on to Atlanta. We want to shut the run down this week and get them to pass, but don't give up the big play. Don't beat ourselves, don't kill ourselves, let's go out there and play Buc Ball. Let's go out there and play great defense and give our offense a chance to score with great field position to make plays and that will be the game.
"It was very surprising knowing Rod [Marinelli] and Joe Barry up there (as Detroit Lions coaches). It gave us a chance to see how our defense is going to react to their offense because they play the Tampa 2. We look at the scheme of things. We figured out where Detroit was out of place in some of their gaps. Hopefully we can shore it up for Atlanta this week."
Gruden also sees a real challenge in the defense that Atlanta will throw at the Buccaneers.
"They have a marquee pass rusher in [John] Abraham. They have a top 10 pick on the other side (Jamaal Anderson)," said Gruden. "They have two really good outside players. I've known Grady Jackson for years. He's as big as he's ever been and as strong as he's ever been, so their front four is excellent. Keith Brooking has been a pain in my rear end for several years, and Michael Boley is a fine young linebacker. Like I said, coach Smith has installed a very disciplined disguised scheme. It is multiple. It looks the same a lot of the time but it is not. They have a lot of creativity I'm sure they are waiting to throw upon us. We got to be ready it is going to be a challenge."
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith comes from the Jacksonville Jaguars organization. Smith was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville under head coach Jack Del Rio. Coming from Jacksonville, Smith has brought their offensive and defensive philosophies with him. The Jaguars and now the Falcons look to be physical defenses with power running offenses. The Bucs have often struggled against Jacksonville in their annual preseason games, so Sunday's contest could be a good test for the 0-1 Buccaneers.
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