DEESE STILL SIDELINED WITH INJURY:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field again on Tuesday without tackle Derrick Deese, who is still sidelined with a lingering ankle injury.

Deese, 35, missed a significant amount of time during training camp and probably won’t be ready to go by the time Tampa Bay opens the 2005 regular season at Minnesota on Sept. 11.

“He’s still getting further opinions and we haven’t yet found out what’s wrong with him,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. “So he’s out for now, and we’ll give you an update when we know something.”

In the meantime, Anthony Davis has replaced Deese as Tampa Bay’s starting left tackle.

BUCS GEARING UP FOR DOLPHINS:
Tampa Bay has spent this week preparing for its third preseason contest of the year, which is against the Miami Dolphins.

According to Gruden, some starters will play longer than usual in Saturday night’s contest.

“Some positions will play longer and some of the younger guys who have earned the right to play a little bit more will play more,” said Gruden. “It all depends on the position, and we’ll make those final assessments later this week.”

Despite showing some playmaking ability last Saturday night against Jacksonville, Luke McCown will once again serve as the team’s third-string quarterback behind starter Brian Griese and backup Chris Simms.

“We’re going to continue to play with our rotation,” Gruden said. “I like Chris Simms a lot; we’re going to try to get him started quicker. That’s the goal here. Luke McCown is getting better. He’s going to continue to get his turns and hopefully he can continue to grow as a quarterback in this system. We like the progress that’s being made.”

FEELING MINNESOTA:
Although they have two preseason games left to play, the Bucs have apparently already started scouting their Week 1 regular season opponent – the Minnesota Vikings.

“A little bit,” Gruden said when asked if the Bucs had started to scout the Vikings. “They’ve made numerous changes on offense and on defense. We’ve seen a couple of their preseason films. Yeah, we’ll try to get involved a little bit with the Vikings, yet there’s a lot of work to be done with this football team now. We’ve done a combination of both.”

BUCS TRYING TO KEEP COOL:
Tampa Bay has been feeling the heat in more ways than one this offseason. Not only are they attempting to rebound from two straight losing seasons, the Bucs have been battling hot and humid conditions in training camp and the Tampa Bay area, which has caused some players to suffer through some dehydration issues.

On Tuesday, Gruden had a group of his offensive and defensive players jog off the practice field at different times and work their way to the locker room inside One Buc Place for a brief cool down session.

“We are looking at some potential changes during our regular-season practice schedule,” said Gruden. “We looked at a couple possible changes. We’ll evaluate that as a staff and with some of the players and see how they liked it, and move on accordingly. We’re trying to tinker with the schedule a little bit. We haven’t made any final changes but we are trying to find a way to get more out of our players on Sunday than Wednesday and Thursday.”

While Tampa Bay may have an advantage over opponents who make the trip to play in Raymond James Stadium at the beginning of the season, Gruden said he and his coaching staff must be mindful of the fact that the players who are constantly practicing in the heat may not have much left in the tank on game days.

“Yeah,” Gruden said when asked if it was to the Bucs’ advantage to practice in the heat. “You could also say that you wear yourself out and the cold-weather teams come in here fresh as daisies. We’re looking at it. We’ve done a lot of research on it. Again, our changes aren’t profound. We’re not going on a siesta here during practice. We’re just trying to help the body recover a little bit so concentration is better and we get more out of these guys not only on practice days but on the game days.”

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