In a season which defining a undisputed offensive team MVP falls along the lines of uncovering Keanu Reeves’ greatest acting performances, Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway sits 61 yards away from the 1,000-yard milestone.

He’s done it four times in his career, but at 35 years old, a fifth would be even more impressive.

The 12-year veteran turned 35 in November and remains among the fastest and most productive receivers in the league. He’s been the most consistent, if not the only weapon in a season where the Bucs offense developed a severe phobia toward the end zone. His six touchdowns are three more than any other player on the team.

Galloway has managed to put together three 100-yard games this year, against Atlanta, New Orleans and Chicago, yet he hasn’t had a single game with double-digit receptions. In fact, he’s only had four games with five or more catches.

He’s had four receptions of more than 50 yards and arguably three or four more that had the potential to go that far. So, there’s little doubt he would’ve eclipsed 1,000 yards by Week 12 had he been afforded a quarterback to get him the ball when he was open.

“He’s been a bright spot,” Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. “You know he could’ve had a huge year if you take the time to go back and look at the plays we’ve missed him on. He really could’ve had one unbelievable year.”

Should Galloway reach the 1,000-yard milestone, it would also put him among impressive company, along the lines of guys with names like Largent, Brown, Carter, Monk and Rice, all of whom produced into their 30s and beyond.

Hall of Famer Steve Largent reached 1,070 yards with Seattle in 1986, the year he turned 32. Tim Brown, who had a brief stay with Tampa Bay in 2004, caught 1,165 yards worth of passes three years earlier with the Raiders in 2001 at age 35.

Galloway’s fellow Ohio State alumnus, Cris Carter, ended a string of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2000 at age 35, when he caught 96 balls for 1,274 yards.

The Redskins’ Art Monk (1,049) did it at 34 and Hall of Famer James Lofton notched his sixth 1,000-yard season at 35 with the Bills in 1991.

The legend that is Jerry Rice hit the mark 14 times, the last at the ripe old age of 40 in 2002. That year he hauled in 92 receptions for 1,211 yards, helping the Oakland Raiders reach the Super Bowl.

The amazing part of the feat, should Galloway reach it, is that he has just 54 receptions heading into the season’s final game. His gaudy 17.4 yards per catch average is second only to Philadelphia’s Reggie Brown (17.7 ypc) this season.

Projecting Galloway’s average, he would need just four more receptions to break 1,000, putting him at 58 on the year. Only Lofton, who averaged 18.8 yards per catch on 57 receptions in Jim Kelly’s K-Gun offense in ‘91, would have a lower number in their 1,000-yard seasons. Largent needed 70 and Monk 71 while Brown and Carter caught 91 and 96.

But would you mention Galloway in the same breath with the previously mentioned receivers?
“I don’t know if he’s got the numbers they have or if he’s been in the offenses that those guys were in to get all the balls that they got,” said Bucs receivers coach Richard Mann. “But as far as what he’s done for us and the things I’ve seen him do over the years, I’ve always been impressed with him.

“I’ve been watching him since he came out of college, I know he’s got a lot of juice and he’s done everything I’ve asked.”

Maybe Galloway’s numbers seem more impressive when you consider he’s played with five different quarterbacks in his time at Tampa Bay, three this year, none of which were named Montana, Gannon, Culpepper, Kelly or Theisman.

Even Brown’s 46 receptions came from quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jeff Garcia, each of which have been 3,000-yard passers and Pro Bowl selections.

With Seattle coming to town on Sunday, Galloway revisits his past. In 1994, the Seahawks went 6-10 and were in desperate need of a playmaker. They took Galloway out of Ohio State University with the eighth overall selection of the 1995 draft. He was one of three wide receivers taken among the first 10 picks that year. Washington took Michael Westbrook (Colorado) at No. 4 and San Francisco took J.J. Stokes out of UCLA with the 10th pick.

Galloway caught 67 passes for 1,039 yards his rookie season and scored seven touchdowns. In fact, he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in three of his first four seasons. But it would be six years and two cities later before he’d see that number again.

In 2005, his second season with the Bucs, Galloway enjoyed his best year as a pro, catching 83 passes for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was his 11th year in the league.
It would appear the move to the Bay area has given Galloway a second career.

“What I’ll say is that Joey, in my opinion, has caught a lot of balls and done a lot of things here that he’s never done before,” Mann said. “I think it rejuvenated him.”

By comparison, Westbrook played eight seasons and went over 1,000 yards once. Stokes played nine and never reached 800.

Thirty-five in football years is like 55 in everyday Joe terms. To do what Galloway does and to remain as fast as he is has lead some teammates and cornerbacks around the league to label him freakish, and that’s a good thing.

So what does he attribute his freakishly amazing ability and longevity to? An equal mixture of speed, fun and hard work.

“Number one, I’ve been blessed,” he said. “But after that, I worked extremely hard at it. And I don’t really allow myself to ever get out of shape. I’ve been doing the same workout, same routines, starting at the same time, doing the same thing for so long now. It’s just worked for me.”

Each offseason Galloway returns to Columbus, Ohio, putting himself through a highly secretive training regimen which he credits for his longevity. Call it a Buckeye thing, he and several NFL players who attended Ohio State made a habit of meeting near their old stomping grounds to keep their bodies in shape during the off season. Although now he says it’s come down to just him and New England linebacker Mike Vrabel.

Much has been made of Galloway’s in-season practice habits. He’s been chastised by some critics for not practicing with the team.

In actuality he admits that he doesn’t take part in Wednesday practices, but goes hard Thursday and Friday.

Why? Well, in his first season in Tampa he tore his groin muscle right off the bone and he says after that, he learned his lesson.
Mann says his hat is off to Coach Gruden for being smart about how they practice him and allowing him to pace himself. Galloway believes it’s helped him tremendously and says since the injury occurred, he hasn’t felt any lingering problems.

“It’s hard to believe, but we didn’t think when we first saw him that he had lost any of his speed,” Mann said. “He’s a guy that has taken care of his body. I believe he lives a clean lifestyle, I really do. And he’s showing up. He’s a guy that’s taken care of himself and he’s showing up at his age.”

With no signs of slowing down and still one of the most feared receivers in the league, it’s conceivable that Galloway, under a much healthier and improved offense, could return next season and produce even better results.
In a conference call with the Seattle media on Wednesday, he said he has plenty of gas left in the tank.

“I think that it would be getting a little ahead of myself if I was to put a number on [how many years I have left in the NFL],” Galloway said. “What I can say is I feel great physically right now. When I get up in the morning, when I go out on the practice field, I feel great. I don’t have the lingering things that are bothering me, that normally bother other guys when they play this long. So I’m going to keep going until I find something better to do.”

With the composition of the Bucs bound to change somewhat, if not drastically, in the coming months and with veterans like Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice at critical points in their careers, it’s safe to say Tampa Bay’s leading receiver will be lining up in a Bucs uniform for the first snap of 2007. According to him, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“To have the opportunity to play for 12 years, it’s hard to describe that-not many guys get to do that,” he said. “I’ve done it. I feel good. Hopefully it continues. I really enjoy it here in Tampa. I love the weather. I love the team. I love the organization. I love the coaches. So hopefully, no matter how long I play, whether it’s a hundred more years or whatever it is, I hope it’s here in Tampa.”

Running back Cadillac Williams missed practice again on Thursday. Coach Gruden said he is still listed as questionable, but said it doesn’t appear that he will play against Seattle at this point.

Williams was inactive for last week’s game at Cleveland after injuring his foot at Chicago the week before. Back up Michael Pittman filled in admirably in his absence, gaining 86 yards on 16 carries.

“We love him.”

Those are the words Gruden used to describe fullback Mike Alstott on Wednesday. Other than that, questions about this being the veteran’s last game at home were not up for discussion.

Gruden said ‘Let’s leave him alone’ and that he would not treat Sunday’s game as his last.

“I think if it was his last game he’d let us know,” Gruden said. “If we knew that, we’d certainly do something I’m sure very special for him, because he’s a great Buccaneer and one of the great ones ever.”

Defensive lineman Julian Jenkins was downgraded from questionable to doubtful on Thursday with a sprained ankle. Tight end Alex Smith (back) and cornerback Alan Zemaitis (shoulder) are also doubtful.

CB Juran Bolden (quadriceps), G Davin Joseph (knee), S Jermaine Phillips (wrist), RB Carnell Williams (foot), LB Jamie Winborn (knee) and DT Ellis Wyms (ankle) are all questionable.

Jenkins, Smith and Williams missed Thursday’s practice.

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