BARBER MAKES DEBUT AT RECEIVER:
The experiment was in the works for over a year, but Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber finally got his first game rep as a wide receiver in head coach Jon Gruden’s offense on Saturday night.
On the first offensive play of the second half of the game vs. the Dolphins, Barber took the field with the Bucs offense and lined up as the flanker (Z) receiver. Quarterback Chris Simms motioned Barber towards the middle of the field and faked a handoff to him and gave the ball to running back Jamel White, who gained two yards on the play.
When asked about Barber’s big debut on offense, Gruden kiddingly downplayed it.
“Barber went on the field one play, a fake reverse that got handed off to Jamel White for a 2-yard gain,” Gruden said. “We saw Ronde in there for the first play of the second half. He was in there on a flanker play that we ran. He just snuck out there. I turned the film on and saw him out there. I’m aware that he did make his debut last night. I’m surprised we didn’t all catch that last night.”
CLAYBROOKS OUT 4-6 WEEKS WITH SPRAINED ANKLE:
The Bucs escaped Saturday night’s game vs. the Dolphins relatively unharmed. The only exception was defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks, who suffered a high ankle sprain and will be sidelined several weeks with the injury.
“DeVone Claybrooks has a high ankle sprain, it is more serious than we expected last night,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “He looks like he’ll possibly be out 4-6 weeks. He is obviously disappointed, he was having a good camp for us. But other than that, we came out of the game without any other injuries to report.”
While there weren’t any other injuries to report Sunday, there were plenty of updates given on injured players.
Bucs middle linebacker Shelton Quarles, who sustained a hairline fracture on his wrist on the first day of training camp, has missed all three of his team’s preseason games as a precaution, but he should be ready to go when the regular season starts on Sept. 12.
“He’s taken a lot of reps on the practice field,” said Gruden. “We’re just trying to make sure the bone heals properly. We’re trying to assess as everything’s on schedule and looks to heal quite nicely. He’s given us some reps on the practice field, but we’re going to hold him out of contact until Washington.”
Tampa Bay starting left tackle Derrick Deese has been sidelined since undergoing foot surgery on Aug. 10. Although second-year T Anthony Davis has performed well in Deese’s place, Gruden suggested Deese would play against the Houston Texans on Thursday night.
“We expect Derrick, if he’s healthy and still the same player we think he is, he’s obviously going to be our starting left tackle,” said Gruden. “If he’s not, we have no problem playing Anthony Davis. He’s come miles and miles. He’s come a long way. He’s been one of the real bright spots of our football team this summer. Blocking Jason Taylor one week, and Hugh Douglas another week, and Justin Smith another week, I mean this guy has done some really good things. He’s put some things on tape that he should be proud of. I know we have taken notice. He’s for real. He’s a guy we think can play.”
Wide receiver Charles Lee, who sustained a serious hamstring injury on Aug. 4, hasn’t played in any of Tampa Bay’s preseason games, but Gruden expects him to play in the preseason finale against Houston.
While some players are on their way back onto the field, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who underwent back surgery on Aug. 4, likely won’t be ready by the start of the regular season, which means he and guard Matt O’Dwyer (pectoral tear) will likely start the season on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
However, Gruden remains optimistic that Jurevicius will be able to play at some point this season.
“I can’t speak for him,” Gruden said of Jurevicius. “I looked out my window and saw him zipping around out here. He doesn’t look far away to me. I’m charged up, very excited by what I’m seeing out there field. I’m not going to say it’s the opening game, but if it’s not the opening game, it doesn’t look far, far away. He’s been very impressive in his initial workouts here after this surgery. He’s come a long way in a short period of time.”
ROSTER CUTS COMING TUESDAY:
Tampa Bay must cut its roster down from 88 to 65 players by 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. The final roster cutdown to 53 players will come on Sept. 5.
GRUDEN STANDING BY HIS KICKER:
After making just 16-of-26 (61.5 percent) field goal attempts last season, Bucs kicker Martin Gramatica isn’t exactly starting the 2004 season off on the right foot.
Gramatica is just 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) on field goal attempts through three preseason games. While he drilled a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter of Saturday night’s game, Gramatica missed a 42-yard try and a 44-yard attempt against Miami. His last attempt barely made it into the end zone.
Needless to say, the Bucs are concerned about Gramatica’s inconsistent performance thus far.
“The second one he just hit poorly,” Gruden said. “It looked like his approach was a little quick and he didn’t hit the ball well. The first one it looked like he just missed it. Once again, as I said last night, it’s discouraging. He kicked the ball extremely well in Jacksonville; we thought he was back on track. We’ve got to work hard to get him back on schedule this week. He’s important to our football team.”
In an effort to rest Gramatica’s leg in preseason, Tampa Bay signed rookie K Nicholas Setta to handle kickoffs. However, the rest doesn’t seem to be helping.
According to Gruden, Gramatica, who was plagued by a groin injury last season and a hernia in 2002, has not been bothered any sort of injury and is considered healthy.
“I don’t believe so,” Gruden said when asked if Gramatica has any reoccurring health problems. “Not according to him or our trainer. We just have to get him back on the range and hit some balls, work on knocking the ball through the goal posts. He’s got work to do.”
While the Bucs are concerned about Gramatica, they’re not quite ready to push the panic button by bringing in another kicker.
“Contingency plans are part of football and part of life,” Gruden said. “Once again, we are confident in Martin Gramatica. He had a setback last night and I think he’d agree with that. We are going to maintain our confidence in him and hopefully he gets his stroke back and his rhythm and timing where it needs to be. Obviously, contingency plans, if necessary, need to be exercised sometimes, but right now our intent is to keep working with Martin. We still believe we’ve got a great kicker here.”
GRUDEN IMPRESSED WITH CLAYTON:
Rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton is showing people why the Bucs used their 2004 first-round draft pick on him in April.
After not having a single pass thrown his way last week against Jacksonville, Clayton came up big on Saturday night against Miami by catching four passes for 57 yards (14.3 avg.), including a 26-yarder that put the Bucs offense on the Dolphins’ 2-yard line in the third quarter.
Clayton is still in a battle with WR Tim Brown for the starting flanker (Z) position, but he has caught Bucs head coach Jon Gruden’s eye thus far.
“He’ll get what he deserves,” Gruden said of Clayton. “He’s playing a lot of football right now. He was an airtight player in that game last night, as a receiver, as a blocker. He did some exceptional things I felt, running after the catch, making the tough play, to set up the tying touchdown. He’s an exciting guy and we’re really impressed with progress he’s made. He’s worked really, really hard and he’s going to be a factor when it’s all said and done.”
Speaking of receivers, Gruden suggested the competition at that position was tight heading into the first set of roster cuts and the team’s preseason finale.
“We do, we like obviously what the veterans have brought us,” said Gruden. “Tim Brown and Bill Schroeder picked this stuff up quickly. We’ve talked about Mike Clayton, he’s made splashes here, he’s got our attention. We’re really impressed with Joey Galloway, who’ll be back this week. Mark Jones and Frank Murphy are clearly our greatest in terms of speed and special teams. We haven’t gotten anything out of our receiving corps in terms of special teams in the last few years. We’d like to find a player in that position that can contribute to our special teams. Danny Farmer’s done some good things when given the opportunity, so has Marcus Knight. Charles Lee should be back, ready to go this week. It’s going to be a tough call for us.”
BUCS’ PRESEASON TO CONCLUDE THURSDAY:
The Bucs players had Sunday off and will return to One Buccaneer Place for two, two-hour practices on Monday and Tuesday before leaving for Houston on Wednesday. The Bucs will play the Texans at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday.
For some players, Thursday’s game will be their last chance to earn a roster spot with the Bucs. For others, it will be a chance to work out the kinks before the regular starts on Sept. 12.
“Some guys are going to play a little bit more than others,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. “Obviously, we won’t have as many players for this game than we had for the first three. So, some of the workload will have increased at certain positions. Once again, we’ll use it as our last evaluation and our goal is to try and come out of this preseason 3-1, that’s the best we can do right now and we (would) like to stay injury free and continue to develop some players.”
BUCS TO LAUNCH 24-HOUR TELEVISION CHANNEL:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Saturday night that they are establishing a new 24-hour network available exclusively on Bright House Networks in both the Tampa Bay and Orlando markets.
“This is a major announcement for the Buccaneers and we are very excited about our new partnership with Bright House Networks,” said Buccaneers executive vice president Bryan Glazer. “We have worked tirelessly for years to solidify this venture and to make this vision a reality. By serving more than 1.7 million customers in Western and Central Florida, the overwhelming dominance of Bright House Networks allows us to reach our fans in the Tampa Bay area, as well as Orlando.”
The new Bucs network, which will give fans a “unique perspective that only the team can provide”, will begin in training camp next year and will feature special sneak preview programming prior to the launch date.
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