Although he suggested earlier in the week that he would play against the Houston Texans, Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia is considered questionable for Sunday's game and will be a game-time decision, head coach Jon Gruden said after Friday's practice at One Buc Place.
"There's a chance of [Jeff playing], but we're going to, again, wait until we get to Houston, see how the weather is, see how he feels," said Gruden. "It's a day-to-day operation right now, but he is getting better and I can only make the decision on Sunday when we get to the stadium."
Garcia initially injured his back two weeks ago against the Washington Redskins. He has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,135 yards and tossed 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first season with the Buccaneers.
Should Garcia, who has been limited in practice all week, not be able to play Sunday, the Bucs will give Luke McCown his second straight start at quarterback.
McCown has started just five career games since entering the NFL in 2004. He played well in place of Garcia last week, completing 29-of-37 passes for 313 yards and tossing two touchdowns and one interception en route to Tampa Bay's 27-23 win over New Orleans.
BUCS-TEXANS INJURY REPORT After being limited in Wednesday's practice, Bucs running back Michael Pittman was held out of Thursday and Friday's workouts due to his lingering ankle injury.
Gruden did not sound confident that Pittman, who has rushed for 213 yards on 45 carries (4.7 avg.) and caught 15 passes for 117 yards, would play vs. the Texans.
"His status is unknown," Gruden said of Pittman, who is doubtful for Sunday's game. "All I can do really is react to the information I get from the player and the trainer and then do the best I can to field the 45 guys who give us a chance to win."
Bucs fullback B.J. Askew is also banged up. He missed the first two practices of the week due to an ankle injury he initially sustained against the Arizona Cardinals.
However, Askew was sporting a cast on his injured foot/leg earlier in the week, but was able to take it off and get a limited amount of work in on Friday.
Although he's listed as questionable for Sunday's game, Askew plans to play vs. the Texans.
"As far as I'm concerned I'm playing," said Askew. "I've been fighting through it. I just have to tough it out. I'll go out before the game and go through a little routine to make sure I'm okay to go, but a lot of it has to do with adrenaline. I think I'll be okay, though.
The 8-4 Buccaneers, who need to win just one more win or have the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans lose in order to win the NFC South division title and secure a spot in the playoffs, apparently told Askew he could take Sunday's game off in order to rest his injured ankle.
However, Askew declined and said he wants to help the Bucs clinch the division title and win their fifth straight game.
"I don't want to rest," said Askew. "They told me I could rest this week, and I said, ‘You know what, man? I just want to be there playing in every game.' I just love the game so much. I know it's going to hurt, but it's worth it."
Gruden went out of his way to recognize Askew's toughness and the contributions he's made to the Buccaneers offense since signing with the team as a free agent during the offseason.
"We tried to immobilize the injury, and we'll see what happens here in the next day or so," Gruden said of Askew. "No one deserves more credit than him. He has played through some tough times and he'll continue to do that if he can."
There's a chance Tampa Bay defensive end Greg Spires, who has missed four straight games due to a calf injury he sustained vs. Jacksonville, will return to action vs. Houston.
Spires was limited in practice on Wednesday, but had full participation on Thursday and Friday. Like Garcia, Gruden said Spires is questionable and would be a game-time decision.
Should Spires not be able to play, Bucs defensive ends Kevin Carter, who is probably with a shoulder injury, and rookie Gaines Adams likely will continue to play in his place.
Bucs wide receivers Joey Galloway (toe), Ike Hilliard (knee) and linebacker Ryan Nece (groin) are questionable for Sunday's game in Houston.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub (left shoulder) and running back Ahman Green have been ruled out of Sunday's game. Linebacker Danny Clark (groin) is questionable.
Texans tight end Mark Bruener (shoulder), running back Ron Dayne (ankle), guard Chester Pitts (knee), tackle Ephraim Salaam (hand) and punter Matt Turk (back) are probable for Sunday's game.
BUCS' ASST. COACH ARRESTED FOR DUI Less than one month after Tampa Bay linebacker Cato June was arrested in Tampa and charged with driving under the influence, Buccaneers asst. coach Dwayne Stukes was arrested Thursday night and charged with the same crime.
According to police reports, Stukes was arrested at 11:30 p.m. in Tampa. He refused to take a breathalyzer. Stukes was released from jail on Friday morning.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said the team was in the process of gathering the facts behind Stukes' DUI arrest.
"We're obviously very concerned about it and we're looking into the situation," said Gruden. "I don't have any other comment at this point."
Stukes, 30, is in his second season with the Buccaneers. He primarily works with special teams coach Richard Bisaccia.
He spent four seasons in the NFL as a player for Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Pittsburgh from 2000-03.
GRUDEN PREFERS OUTDOORS STADIUMS Tampa Bay (8-4) will travel to Houston (5-7) to play the Texans on Sunday. Houston has arguably the best stadium in the National Football League.
In fact, Reliant Stadium, which holds about 69,000 people, was built in time for the Texans to make their debut as an expansion team in 2002, which makes it one of the newer stadiums in the NFL.
One of the things that helps separates Reliant Stadium, which hosted Super Bowl XXXVIII, from most NFL stadiums is its retractable roof. That feature and technology allows the Texans' home stadium to have natural grass as a playing surface and to play indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is hoping the Texans leave the roof open at Reliant Stadium for Sunday's game.
"Well, if it's raining and it's sleeting I'd rather it be closed," Gruden said when asked if he had a preference in terms of playing indoors or outdoors. "I prefer playing outdoors, personally, whenever I can. I guess that's the best way to answer it. This is a really unbelievable place we're going to play. It's a state-of-the-art facility. You've got to see it to believe it, really. We're looking forward to going and playing there regardless of it's indoors or outdoors."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on the "Gruden" chant from the players after last Sunday's 27-23 win over New Orleans:
"That was awful nice of those guys, whoever started the chant. It was probably my son (laughing). We've got a lost of interest in the same thing. These guys mean a lot to me and I think they know that, but I also expect a lot out of them. It's the players that are getting it done and it will be the players that get it done if we're going to continue to win."
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