The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field at One Buccaneer Place on Thursday in preparation for their third preseason opponent – the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Bucs did not have all of their players participating. Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who is recovering from a calf injury he suffered in training camp, did practice, but wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) was held out of the workout after practicing earlier in the week.
Tampa Bay hopes Garcia and Galloway will be able to play vs. Jacksonville on Saturday night, but Gruden said both players would be game-time decisions.
"We base a lot of our decisions on what we see on the practice field," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "[Jeff] didn't play much at all in the preseason last year. There have been a lot of players throughout the league that have been idol in the preseason. That's well documented. It's a startling number of guys. We're going to continue to try to get Jeff a lot of work on the practice field. In the time being, Brian Griese and Luke McCown have done one heck of a job taking their turns. We consider the position to be strength of ours and we're happy with it right now. Jeff doesn't need to go out and play three quarters to get ready. He just needs to get back behind the wheel and get re-acclimated to the speed of the game.
"[Galloway] did not [practice], but he ran very good today. We feel good about that. He should be ready to go again when we practice on Monday."
The Bucs are 2-0 in the preseason heading into their exhibition contest against the Jaguars. Some teams elect to play their starters three quarters in the third preseason game, but Gruden would not commit to playing certain players a certain amount of time.
"We don't really know who all of the starters are at this point," said Gruden. "We're still working through that. We want to be fair to the players that have worked so hard here and give them an opportunity to make the team. We've got to make some tough calls at every position. It's been very competitive. Some of the projected starters will play longer than others."
In addition to Galloway, Bucs right guard Davin Joseph (foot) and fullback B.J. Askew (ankle) were held out of Thursday's practice. Both players are recovering from surgery. Neither is expected to play on Saturday night.
BUCS MOURN LOSS OF GENE UPSHAW NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw passed away at the age of 63 on Wednesday night.
Upshaw died of pancreatic cancer. He was diagnosed with the disease on Aug. 17, which was two days after his 63rd birthday.
Word of Upshaw's passing caught most of the league by surprise, including coaches and players at One Buccaneer Place.
"It's obviously a terrible day for us. A very sad day," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "It really caught me by surprise. I know he's had a tremendous influence, not only on me, but also our players and people in this league. We're going to miss Gene Upshaw. He was a quality guy, and we're all saddened by that. He stood for a lot and he was a great man. He worked and worked and worked. He was a Hall of Fame player and man, and we'll miss him."
The Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders guard played an integral role in helping to guide the players' association through the 1987 labor strike and the implementation of free agency and salary cap in 1993.
In 2006, Upshaw and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue prevented another labor strike by negotiating a new labor contract, which owners have since opted out of.
"He gave his life to this union. He gave 25 years of his life, and the 15-year Hall of Fame career prior to that. That's dedication," said Bucs defensive end Kevin Carter. "We can only hope for that dedication from the person that succeeds him.
"We are together and we are unified. Gene was the one who brought us together. If anyone thinks we aren't going to be as strong now because he is not there, they are sadly mistaken. Gene gave us our strength and still continues to even though he is not here with us."
Upshaw was scheduled to hold a briefing on labor negotiations on Sept. 4. The NFLPA's executive committee has appointed general counsel Richard Berthelesen as the union's acting executive director, a move that was supported by the players, including Carter.
"We were all unanimously in favor of appointing Richard Berthelsen our interim executive director," said Carter. "He was Gene's right hand man. He was there from the beginning."
BUCS WELCOME SPECIAL GUEST TO PRACTICE When the Buccaneers took the field for Thursdsay's practice at One Buccaneer Place they had a special guest.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation and Buccaneers came together to allow an 11-year-old boy's dream to come true on Thursday.
Michael suffers from dense granule deficiency, or delta-storage pool deficiency. This type of hemophilia is a life-threatening condition, but that isn't stopping Michael from pursuing his dream to one day become a professional football player and coach.
"I want to know what it feels like to be a real coach," said Michael. "I like football and I love the Buccaneers."
He took a big step in that direction on Thursday.
Michael was coach for a day during Thursday's practice. He received a tour of One Buc Place, which is a state-of-the-art facility, and was treated to lunch in the team's dining hall. He will also have pre-game access to watch the Buccaneers warm-up on the field at Raymond James Stadium before watching Tampa Bay take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
"He's a great guy," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Michael. "He had a chance to look at some scripts and he got to blow the horn. He got to get a break with the guys. He said he wants to be a coach. I tried to talk him out of it – he's got to deal with some of these players and the media, too. They're hard to deal with (laughing). But he's a great kid. We're real happy to have him as part of this team and hopefully he gets to be a big part of the game on Saturday night."
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