Tampa Bay starting left tackle Derrick Deese practiced Wednesday and is not listed on the team’s official injury report.

Although Deese will likely start Sunday in Tampa Bay’s regular season finale against Arizona, second-year left tackle Anthony Davis is hoping he’ll get a chance to play against the Cardinals.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Davis said when asked if he thought he might play Sunday. “No coach has talked to me. I talked to Deese and he said he was fine, so I’m assuming he is playing.”

Last year, Davis, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech, spent most of the 2003 season on the practice squad. After putting together a strong training camp and preseason, where he started three of the team’s four exhibition contests in place of the injured Deese, Davis said he’s come a long way.

“Learning to master different plays,” Davis said when asked what’s made him a better player this year. “Learning how to block speed rushers and guys like Simeon (Rice) versus a guy like Greg Spires. Just the little things, the things that make a Derrick Deese so good and keep him in this league for 13 years.”

As much as he likes to improve by practicing, the 6-foot-4, 322-pound Davis feels he can’t completely showcase his talents in those situations, which aren’t as physical as games.

“Not being physical all the time,” Davis said. “That’s my game. I’m known for being physical, but sometimes it’s about backing off. Going against a guy like Simeon, he’ll embarrass you if you try to be too physical. Just being smart. I’ve always had it from the neck going down, now it’s just from the neck up. That was my biggest thing, even coming out of college. Now I think I’m ready. If I do play, then that’s wonderful. If I don’t it was still a good season for me because I’m still learning.”

Although Deese will likely return as a starter next year, Davis said he will attempt to earn a starting job, starting in the spring.

“It depends on how my spring goes,” Davis said. “I could go to right tackle, or I could be at left guard or right guard. It all depends on my spring. I can’t base 2005 on what I did this past spring.

“I go to right tackle and alternate with (Todd) Steussie. Even today I took some snaps at left guard. The more positions you play the better you are in this league.”

In the meantime, Gruden continues to be impressed by Davis’ work on the practice field.

“Well, he’s obviously done well,” Gruden said of Davis. “It’s hard for anyone to believe that because he hasn’t been active nor played. But he’s got promise, as does Jeb Terry and Will Allen and some of these youngsters. He’s got a future, and he has made progress.”

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