Although they were limited during Wednesday’s practice at One Buccaneer Place, defensive lineman Dewayne White (calf), center Sean Mahan (shoulder), wide receiver Joey Galloway (ankle) and quarterback Brian Griese (hip) each are listed as probable on Tampa Bay’s official injury report.
According to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, guard Matt O’Dwyer, who was recently activated after being sidelined with a pectoral tear for several months, could play Sunday depending on how Mahan does during the week of practice.
“He’s been playing for a couple weeks,” Gruden said of O’Dwyer. “We’ve struggled with the game-day active number of linemen; we’ve only had seven just about every game. Mahan’s health will determined where we go there. But he’s had four weeks to get ready. He’s played a lot of football in his career. We’ll have to decide late in the week.”
TAYLOR KICKS FOR BUCS:
New Tampa Bay kicker Jay Taylor made his second debut with the Buccaneers Wednesday. Last month, Taylor spent a week on the Bucs’ practice squad before being released after the team learned that K Martin Gramatica was healthy enough to kick in the game against Atlanta.
Taylor, who replaces Gramatica on the team’s 53-man roster, is thrilled to be kicking for the Bucs again.
“I’m excited; the chance to get an opportunity like this,” said Taylor. “I have been waiting a long time for it. I feel I am ready and I am just going to try to do the best that I can.”
Releasing Gramatica wasn’t an easy thing for Bucs head coach Jon Gruden to do, but he was pleased with how Taylor fared on the practice field Wednesday.
“It was hard,” Gruden said of the team’s decision to release Gramatica. “We had a long conversation yesterday. I’m going to keep that personal. But he’s been a good friend. He’s been a clutch performer here. He’s struggled, lost accuracy last year and this year. He’s got to come out of it. Hopefully he does that on his own, here in the next whatever time frame we’re talking about. He deserved an opportunity, I think, to get himself right, and I think that’s what he’s going to do.
“Taylor was six-for-six from 44 yards today, which was a pretty good statement as to what his range is. It looks like he’s got very good range. We’ll get to know him more, personal and up-close, in the next few days, but his first day here was a pretty good one.”
Taylor’s most recent experience came in the Arena Football League, where he led the league with a .720 field goal percentage by making 18-of-25 attempts with the Orland Predators, the team Jay Gruden coached last season.
“He just goes out there and makes them,” Jay Gruden said of Taylor. “That’s what you want in a kicker, I think. Just go out there, line up and knock them through the uprights. He’s done that for me. He’s done that in the XFL and in college. Hopefully he’ll do that here and make a name for himself. There’s not a better guy to do that.”
BUCS SIGN TWO TO PRACTICE SQUAD:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed guard Jason Nerys and wide receiver Kevin Youngblood to their eight-man practice squad Wednesday.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Nerys entered the NFL in 2004 with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent out of Delaware, where he was an All-Atlantic 10 performer during his senior season.
This is Youngblood’s second stint with the Bucs, who had him on their taxi squad for one week back in October. Youngblood (6-5, 215) entered the NFL in 2004 with the Atlanta Falcons as UFA out of Clemson.
In order to make room for Nerys and Youngblood on their practice squad, the Bucs released defensive back Kentrell Curry and running back Sultan McCullough.
GRUDEN NOT A CANDIDATE FOR NOTRE DAME JOB:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden quickly removed his name from the list of candidates to replace Ty Willingham as the head coach at Notre Dame.
Gruden’s name was originally linked to Notre Dame because his father, Jim Gruden, coached there and because of the fact that Jon Gruden expressed interest in becoming the Fighting Irish’s head coach back in 2001 while he was with the Oakland Raiders.
According to Gruden, he’s not interested in leaving Tampa Bay.
“I love Notre Dame,” said Gruden. “I went to high school there. My dad coached Joe Montana and Vagas Ferguson there. I’m not a candidate for that job. I’ve got the best job in football and I’ve got to work hard to keep it. I wish Notre Dame well, I’ll always be a big fan, but I guarantee I’m no candidate for that job.”
BUCS STILL ALIVE AT 4-7?:
Things are still wide open in the NFC playoff race, and believe it or not, the 4-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still alive for a playoff spot.
Philadelphia (10-1), Atlanta (9-2), Green Bay (7-4) and Seattle (6-5) are currently division leaders.
The Minnesota Vikings (7-4) will likely earn one of the NFC’s two Wild Card playoff berths. The other one, however, is still very much up for grabs.
The St. Louis Rams (5-6) and New York Giants (5-6) each are tied for the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC. After that, six teams — Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans and Tampa Bay — are one game behind the Rams and Giants with 4-7 records.
Although Tampa Bay is coming off a devastating 21-14 loss to Carolina, its players still believe the Bucs have a shot at making the playoffs this season.
“If you look at the NFC, it is wide open, with the exception of Atlanta and Philadelphia,” said Bucs guard Cosey Coleman. “Everyone else is kind of lumped up in the middle as far as their record. Everyone else is one or two games from each other. As long as there are one or two games left, we have an opportunity to make it to this tournament, because once you make it to the playoffs, everyone is 0-0. Regardless of the record. Regardless of what you did during the regular season. Once you make it to the tournament, everyone is on a level-playing field. That is our goal right now. We are just trying to do what ever we can to get ourselves into the playoffs.”
The Falcons are running away with the NFC South Division, but the Bucs still believe they have plenty to play for over the last five games of the season.
“You could not have told me that at the beginning of the year that I would be 4-7 and still have a chance at the playoffs,” said Bucs left tackle Derrick Deese. “The fact that I still have a chance at this is something to keep pushing for.”
The Buccaneers have won three straight home games, and quarterback Brian Griese plans on making it four-in-a-row when the Falcons come to town Sunday.
“We’re a 4-7 football team and we understand that we still have a chance,” said Griese. “However small that chance might be, it’s a chance nonetheless. Nobody takes that lightly around here. I know that I don’t. I’m excited to go out and play ball again. We have a lot to prove. On our home field, where we’ve been playing a little bit better as of late — I’m excited to go out and get this game.”
The Bucs will have some extra motivation when they host the Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. With a victory over Tampa Bay, Atlanta will clinch its first-ever NFC South division title. The Bucs, who were downed by the Falcons 24-14 a few weeks ago, don’t want the Dirty Birds celebrating that feat on their home turf.
“That says it all — if we cannot get excited about that fact right there then something is wrong,” Bucs defensive end Greg Spires said. “We do not want the Falcons clinching the division on our home field. That alone gets everyone up.”
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