BUCS SIGN K TAYLOR TO PRACTICE SQUAD:
With kicker Martin Gramatica listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Atlanta with a hip injury he sustained during last Sunday’s game against Kansas City, Tampa Bay signed K Jay Taylor to its practice squad Wednesday.

The Bucs, who are monitoring Gramatica’s health status closely, brought Taylor in as a contingency plan. However, the team expects Gramatica to kick during Thursday’s workout.

“He’s going to kick tomorrow,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Gramatica. “We’ll see where he is and we can update you as the week unfolds.”

Taylor, 28, has had previous stints in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns (2003), Buffalo Bills (2001) and Miami Dolphins (2000). He also played in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire and in the Arena Football League with the Orlando Predators, the team Jon Gruden’s brother, Jay, coaches and previously played for.

“We obviously think he’s a real good kicker,” said Gruden. “The kicker for the Falcons is an ex-Tampa Bay Storm kicker, so sometimes these guys come from different walks of life. But Taylor is an all-Arena League kicker and if need be, we’ll be ready to use him.”

Taylor is glad to be a Buc but even happier to be kicking through wider field goal posts.

“It looks amazing,” Taylor said of the NFL field goal post. “They have the small goal post out there [on the Bucs’ practice field] as well, and I look over at that and say, ‘Wow.’ You look at both of them and you realize how much nicer it is to kick at the outdoor posts.”

Taylor led the AFL in kicking percentage this year by making 18-of-25 field goal attempts. His longest came from 50 yards out.

BUCS INJURY UPDATE:
In addition to K Martin Gramatica, Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland was also held out of practice Wednesday.

If McFarland, who is listed as questionable with a tricep strain, cannot play against Atlanta, newly signed DT Chidi Ahanotu, who played for the Bucs from 1993-2000, could start in his place.

“We need help there, obviously, with the injuries that we’ve had to [Damian] Gregory, [Ellis] Wyms and now McFarland,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “He’s our franchise. We’ve got our ‘franchise player’ back, so we’re excited about that. He appears to be in good shape. He’s an ex-Buccaneer. He understands our defense. We need a lift there right now.”

Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) and quarterback Chris Simms (shoulder) are also listed as questionable on Tampa Bay’s injury report. Fullback Mike Alstott is out with a MCL sprain.

TAMPA BAY PREPARES FOR ATLANTA:
The 3-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent Wednesday preparing for their game against the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons.

With the Falcons in first place in the NFC South Division, the Bucs likely need to win both of their contests against the Dirty Birds this season in order to have a chance of winning the division, which would guarantee the Pewter Pirates, who have won three of their last four games, a spot in the playoffs.

“The next game’s a big game,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “We’re not going to go too far past this one. We have battled back nicely here in the second quarter of the season and, again, this is an opportunity that we fought to get ourselves into. We realize that Atlanta’s a great team, playing at home, coming off a bye. They’re very talented. It will be a test for us.”

The Bucs actually spent some of their bye week preparing for what is a huge game for both teams.

“We obviously took advantage of the bye week and took every opportunity we could to preview the next opponent,” said Gruden. “That was productive, we won the game, and as we wound down in our preparations we peeked at Atlanta a little bit. They’re a very good team.”

Tampa Bay’s main focus in preparing for Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick, who leads the Falcons in rushing with 463 yards (7.1 avg.). However, the Bucs have done a good job of containing Vick and tailbacks Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, all of whom have the Falcons’ ground attack ranked 3rd in the NFL, in the past and plan on doing the same when Sunday’s game rolls around.

“You’ve got to be careful of that,” Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks said of Vick. “But he’s a great player. You better focus every bit of your attention on him. He’s made some magical plays again this season. His won-lost record as a starting quarterback — forget about everything else — is very, very impressive. What he’s done as a starter there speaks for itself. He’s the centerpiece in that attack. They’ve got [Warrick] Dunn, they’ve got [T.J.] Duckett.

“You just take the approach we take every week, stop the running game. Definitely take that option away from them. Then get out there and take your chances. A team that sits back on their heels, he seems to have a lot of fun playing against them. We are going to go out, line up and play our defense and see what happens.”

Cornerback Brian Kelly said the Bucs have fared better against Vick than most teams because they are more aggressive.

“I think we pursue better than most defenses,” said Kelly. “You’re not going to say that one guy is going to bring this guy down. You take all 11 guys and pursue. You take the back field guys in coverage to take away the passing zones to force him to pull the ball down and run. I think that’s what we do well. We pursue better than other defenses.”

The Bucs trail the first-place Falcons by three games and have a chance to shave two games off of that lead by downing them in their head-to-head matchups. Needless to say, Sunday’s game is a must-win for the Buccaneers.

“It was always a must-win,” said Bucs rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton. “We definitely have come a long way from where we started at the beginning of the season and we have the confidence level that we are not going to lose. That is just a must that you have to have when you are going into a situation like this. We just try to stay as positive as possible.”

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