THE FORGOTTEN MAN
A fourth-round draft pick. A player who made a lot of noise in preseason and training camp. A guy who disappeared for the entire season.
There are a lot of ways to label Bucs cornerback Alan Zemaitis. Unfortunately, we won’t know anything else about him until next year. He was placed on injured reserve Friday and is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair his ailing shoulder injury.
“It’s been an ongoing injury that he’s had and after further diagnosis, I think all the heads got together and decided the best thing to do is get this thing fixed as soon as we can so he can get back and ready to roll in the offseason program,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said.
The team put him on injured reserve in order to bring running back Lionel Gates up from the practice squad to the active roster for the Seattle game. With Cadillac Williams missing Friday’s practice and expected not to play Sunday, Gates gives the team an emergency back should something unexpected happen, such as sickness or injury, Gruden said.
Zemaitis, a three-year starter at Penn State and second-team All-America selection as a senior, had been inactive for all previous 15 games this season. Gates, a 2005 seventh-round pick with Buffalo, was signed to the Bucs practice squad on Sept. 3.
The team also signed cornerback Carlos Hendricks to the practice squad.
LITTLE BIG MAN ON CAMPUS
Defensive tackle Chris Hovan has two quarterback sacks this season. He hasn’t had more than two since 2002. If he plans to add to that total in Sunday’s final game, he’ll have to re-introduce himself to a former college teammate.
Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck played quarterback for Boston College when Hovan was a freshman for the Eagles. He was a sixth-round pick in 1998, going to the Green Bay Packers before being traded to the Seahawks in 2001.
Hovan was a first-round pick for Minnesota in the 2000 draft and signed as a free agent with the Bucs last year.
“I was a freshman, he was a fifth-year senior. I was probably a peon to him back then,” Hovan said. “Hopefully he thinks of me the same way right now. We’ll see.”
Hasselbeck isn’t the most mobile quarterback. Last week, he was dropped six times by San Diego’s defense and his 33 sacks this season are the most he’s taken since 2003.
Tampa Bay’s defense, which has had trouble rushing the passer all season, had one of its better showings last week, producing three sacks against Cleveland, one of which belonged to Hovan.
“We need to keep picking it up,” Hovan said. “[Defensive line pressure] sets the tempo for the game.
“Going out with wins is always better. We didn’t make the playoffs this year, so be it, but we have a chance to go out there play great football.”
A MEETING OF THE MINDS
Over the past decade, Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren and Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden have been widely considered two of the greatest offensive minds in the game.
Gruden worked three seasons (1992-94) as an offensive assistant to Holmgren while at Green Bay before being named the Packers receivers coach in 1993.
The two still talk quite a bit during the offseason and Gruden says he learned how to prepare a team and how to take pride in your work from Holmgren.
In his media conference call this week, Holmgren expressed his admiration equally.
“He just epitomizes so much of the hard work and work ethic and brains that I think it takes to be successful in this league,” Holmgren said. “He’s going through a tough thing now, but a lot of it is injury. I know how it feels to lose a quarterback or two or whatever it’s been. But he will bounce back. He’s a resilient young man.”
The chess match continues as Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Ray Rhodes, will try to pick the mind of his former friend. Rhodes was the defensive backs coach at Green Bay while Gruden was there.
Gruden is 3-4 all-time against Holmgren.
In addition to placing Zemaitis on injured reserve, the Bucs also placed rookie defensive lineman Julian Jenkins (ankle) on IR Friday.
Alex Smith was upgraded from doubtful to questionable, although head coach Jon Gruden calls it “very questionable.” Smith did practice Friday, but was limited.
Running back Cadillac Williams did not participate in Friday’s practice and is still listed as questionable, although the likelihood of him playing, according to Gruden, is not good.
CB Juran Bolden (quadriceps), G Davin Joseph (knee), S Jermaine Phillips (wrist), RB Carnell Williams (foot), LB Jamie Winborn (knee) and DT Ellis Wyms (ankle) are all questionable.
Jenkins and Williams missed Thursday’s practice.