Bucs S Allen Doubtful For Falcons Game
Tampa Bay has several players listed on its injury report, which was released on Wednesday.

Bucs starting free safety Will Allen appears to be in the worst shape of all six players on Tampa Bay’s injury report. He didn’t practice on Wednesday and is listed as doubtful with a knee injury he sustained last Sunday during Tampa Bay’s 36-35 win over Washington.

The good news for the Bucs is S Dexter Jackson, who has been sidelined for three straight games with a hamstring injury, practiced a bit on Wednesday and is listed as questionable for the game vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

Jackson, Kalvin Pearson and rookie Donte Nicholson took reps at free safety in place of Allen on Wednesday.

Tampa Bay starting left defensive end Greg Spires (shoulder) was also held out practice. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Dewayne White and Ellis Wyms took reps at left end during practice. Spires, who has only missed one regular season game since signing with the Bucs in 2002, hopes to play on Sunday.

“If I can play, I’m going to play,” said Spires. “If not, I’m going to prepare myself as if I’m going to play. Just rest, rehab and strengthening it up a little.”

Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton, who missed last Sunday’s game due to a bone bruise on his knee, was limited during Wednesday’s practice and is listed as questionable.

Running back Michael Pittman (shoulder) practiced Wednesday and is probable for Sunday’s game in Atlanta.

Bolden Returns To Atlanta
Sunday will mark the first time Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Juran Bolden plays against his former team – the 6-3 Atlanta Falcons. He’s had two stints with Atlanta (1996-1998, 2002-03) since entering the NFL in 1996.

Bolden, a Tampa native, said Wednesday that he’s looking forward to playing against his former team on Sunday.

“When I left them I didn’t leave on bad terms,” Bolden said. “I still have some good friends over there. It’s just like growing up playing little league football – you see a lot of your friends on different teams. It’s almost like you get a little war going between you during the week. But it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be exciting to get a chance to go out there and knock heads against those guys who I was basically defending back in the day.”

Gruden Pleased With Reduction In Penalties
After being called for 78 penalties through its first eight regular season games, Tampa Bay was penalized just two times last Sunday vs. the Washington Redskins.

Although he would like to see more improvement in that particular area, Gruden was pleased to see the Bucs limit the penalties last Sunday.

“I’m jumping for joy, man,” Gruden said. “League penalties are up. There are 15 penalties per game. I’m not making excuses. We work hard on it. We’re making progress. It’s an area that we’ve isolated and we’ve worked on it carefully. Two penalties is still two too many if you ask me, but we did make some strides last week and ultimately in a game like that it paid major dividends.”

The Bucs have been penalized 80 times for 630 yards through nine regular season games this season.

Shepherd To Get More Playing Time?
Tampa Bay WR Edell Shepherd took advantage of the playing time he was afforded last Sunday due to WR Michael Clayton’s leg injury by hauling in three passes for 87 yards, including a 46-yard catch and a 30-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Chris Simms late in the fourth quarter to help win the game vs. the Redskins.

That was the type of performance Shepherd expected to have last year after having an impressive training camp, but that plan was derailed by a broken foot injury he sustained in Tampa Bay’s 2004 preseason opener vs. Cincinnati.

But instead of dwelling on the season-ending foot injury, Shepherd decided to find a way to benefit from it.

“It was a benefit,” Shepherd said of the injury. “That’s how I look at it. I mean, the night it happened, that was the worst night, and after that, it was over with. I just used everyday from there to get better.”

As it turns out, Shepherd’s impact on offense was simply delayed by the foot injury, evidenced by what he did with on the field on Sunday.

“For me personally, I knew what I could do so it wasn’t a surprise to me,” said Shepherd. “Hopefully it will help my status with the team, letting them know that when my number is called I can make a play.”

If you ask Shepherd’s teammates about his success, most of them will tell you that his outing vs. the Redskins came as no surprise to them.

“It was great for him, probably for his confidence more than anything just for the fact that he hasn’t been out there a whole lot, just like me,” said Simms. “At the same time, I had confidence in him. I can’t say that I didn’t. Just from last year alone, like I told you guys in summer camp last year, I realized he was going to be a big-play threat down the field. He just needed a few opportunities to get the ball down there and he came through, and now he’s kind of made his mark.”

Gruden suggested he would be calling Shepherd’s number more after watching the receiver make clutch plays vs. the Redskins.

“Damn right it does,” Gruden said when asked if Shepherd’s performance earned him more playing time. “If you’re going to come out and play like that, [only] an idiot wouldn’t put him on the field. The guy’s fast and the guy’s a good player. You play well, you get a chance to play more. That’s the way life is.”

Bucs Waiting For Cadillac To Get Back On Track
As a team, the 6-3 Buccaneers, who had lost three of their last four games before defeating the Redskins in dramatic fashion last Sunday, appear to be back on track. Now rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams is hoping to follow their lead.

Through his first three regular season games, Williams rushed for 447 yards (4.5 avg.) and two touchdowns en route to having his gloves and cleats enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

But a foot/hamstring injury sidelined Tampa Bay’s 2005 first-round draft pick for two straight games and has caused the Bucs ground attack to fall apart.

Since his return from the injury, Williams has carried the ball 34 times for 69 yards and fumbled twice over the past three games, and Tampa Bay’s ground game, which ranked in the top five earlier this season, has tumbled to No. 18 overall.

“I wish I knew. It’s tough right now,” said Williams. “Things aren’t going like I thought they would. It’s a little bump in the road but I’m going to come up out of it.

“I’m not going to use my foot as an excuse. I’m playing poorly right now and I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I’m just in a slump right now and I’m looking at being a whole lot better this week.”

Simms, whose left arm played an integral role in helping Tampa Bay defeat Washington last Sunday, suggested Williams wasn’t far from returning to form.

“Slowly but surely he’s going to get back,” Simms said of Williams. “The bottom line is, we played three real good defenses the last three weeks and they’re all capable of stopping the run. When that happens, you’ve got to win the game with other means. I don’t think anyone’s worrying or anything like that. We realize it will happen again. He’s healthy, he’s feeling strong. With [Michael] Pittman back there and [Mike] Alstott back there, it’s a good combination, so we’ll still keep plugging away.”

The Bucs have by no means given up on Williams. In fact, Gruden said the team, particularly the offense, would continue to feed Cadillac the ball in an effort to help him get into a rhythm, something he’s failed to do since the first quarter of the regular season.

“He played good,” Gruden said of Williams. “I was pleased with what he did. He had three really nice runs where he got yardage in very tough situations. Hopefully this is the week he finds his true stride.

“I’m going to wait patiently, too. It will come. It will be okay. He’ll be just fine. He’s the least of my concerns. He had a good practice today and I’m not going to say anything else other than he’s a great football player. He’ll prove it. He’ll prove it once again. Hopefully it’s Sunday.”

Quote Of The Day
Gruden on QB Chris Simms

“I thought he did great. He’s the hardest-working guy, arguably, that there is at that position, at least that I’ve been around. He’s in here Monday, he’s in here Tuesday, he’s going to be in here late tonight. He loves it, and that’s one of the things we like about him the most. He was solid today. He was advanced; [Quarterbacks Coach] Paul Hackett did a nice job getting him ready yesterday and the day before for the challenge of Wednesday practice and I thought he responded pretty good. There are plenty of things he can clean up and he knows that.”

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