McFarland, Walker Held Out Of Practice
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field Tuesday without defensive tackle Anthony McFarland and tackle Kenyatta Walker.

McFarland is recovering from a hamstring injury that kept him out of last Saturday’s game vs. New England. He is questionable for this Saturday’s game vs. Atlanta.

“Anthony is getting better,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “He’s still questionable for this game.”

Should McFarland be unable to play, backup DT Ellis Wyms will start in his place at the under tackle position for the second straight contest.

Walker is nursing a shoulder injury he sustained vs. the Patriots. Gruden stopped short of announcing how Walker was going to be listed on the team’s official injury report, which will be released on Wednesday. However, he did suggest Walker would play vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

“I don’t know how they have him listed,” Gruden said of Walker. “I don’t understand the injury report as well as most coaches, I apologize. But he’ll find a way to play. I believe he’ll be okay. It’s a shoulder strain. To be exact this time, it’s a shoulder strain. He’s a little sore from the game but hopefully he can practice tomorrow and be ready to go.”

In other injury news, tight end Anthony Becht (ankle) is questionable for Saturday’s game. Linebacker Marquis Cooper (chest) will likely return to action vs. Atlanta. Gruden said quarterback Chris Simms threw the ball well on Tuesday and was not having any lingering effects from the jammed left thumb he sustained vs. the Patriots.

Bucs Awaiting Pro Bowl Announcements
The National Football League will announce the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl teams at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday during the 2006 Pro Bowl Selection Show on ESPN.

While players like linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles, cornerback Ronde Barber, wide receiver Joey Galloway and defensive end Simeon Rice are awaiting word on whether they’ll be heading to Hawaii in February, Bucs punter Josh Bidwell appears to be on his way to the NFL All-Star game after receiving 236,305 votes, which made him the NFC’s leading vote-getter for punters.

“I feel like I had a great year this year,” said Bidwell. “The fan vote has never been something that I’ve paid that much attention to. We’ve had different guys in the past who were winning the fan vote, but it’s tough to find out who’s second and third. They only publish that first-place vote. So it’s kind of neat to see that I led the NFC [in voting]. I’m one-third of the way there – that’s good. Hopefully it will work out.”

Tampa Bay rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams was the NFC’s leading vote-getter for rookies after receiving 219,726 votes.

The Pro Bowl will be played in Hawaii on Sunday, February 12. It will be televised by ESPN.

Bucs Need A Win And Some Help To Secure Playoff Spot
Tampa Bay made it clear Tuesday that its 28-0 loss to New England is a thing of the past. The 9-5 Bucs simply don’t have time to dwell on that embarrassing loss with the 8-6 Atlanta Falcons invading Raymond James Stadium on Saturday afternoon in what could be an elimination game for one of the two teams.

Tampa Bay currently has a one-game lead over its division rival, and a Bucs win on Saturday would basically eliminate the Falcons from playoff contention.

“It’s big that they’re coming in here for the simple fact that their backs are against the wall,” said defensive end Simeon Rice. “They’re as backed up as you possibly can be. We’ve got to have murder by numbers. We’ve got to murder this team and let them do the calculations after that. ‘Oh, if this team can just get in at 9-7,’ or whatever. But it’s going to be murder by numbers for either team. We’ve got to go out there and continue to dictate our future and sow a good seed, and I think we’ll reap the benefits of it.”

The Bucs certainly can’t afford to lose to the Falcons and still have hopes of beating out the 10-4 Carolina Panthers for the NFC South division title. That’s just one more reason for the Bucs to focus on the Falcons and forget about the loss to the Patriots.

“We are trying to get our 10th win of the season,” said linebacker Derrick Brooks. “We have no reason to look behind. Obviously, [the Falcons] have no reason to look behind. We all are fighting for a position to get into the playoffs. And to us that’s all that matters.”

Tampa Bay can essentially clinch a playoff spot on Saturday by defeating Atlanta and having any two of three teams – Dallas, Minnesota and Washington – lose this weekend.

Note Of The Day
Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway spent most of Tuesday’s practice sporting a No. 7 jersey in an effort to help Tampa Bay’s defense prepare to face Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.

“Yes, at times he was,” Gruden said of Galloway working as Vick on the scout-team offense. “We’re trying to simulate speed with speed. I don’t know if Galloway’s as fast as Vick. He claims he is but we’d have to find out.”

Quote Of The Day
Gruden on guarding against the New England loss remaining in players’ minds

“I don’t remember the last game. I don’t remember the stunning victory in Carolina. I don’t think it really matters. We’re 9-5. Hopefully there are no lingering feelings here of our sound defeat that we had last week. No, I believe this comes down to Bucs-Falcons. I mean, how much motivation do you need?”

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