Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway, who missed every training camp practice and all four preseason games while nursing a strained groin, was dubbed the “White Tiger” by head coach Jon Gruden in August due to the rare sightings of white tigers. Galloway was rarely seen on the practice field due to that groin injury, but deemed himself ready to play in the season opener at New Orleans on Sunday.
“I hope I can get (to play) on Sunday, but we will see,” Galloway said. “I’m lobbying to be out there on Sunday. Again, that’s his call. I can just prepare and hope to be ready, and at the end of the day on Sunday that will be a game-time decision that he’ll make. … I’m feeling pretty good. I haven’t played football in a while. It’s going to be Coach’s call on whether he thinks I’ll be ready, but I’m hoping to play.”
“Each and every time we get a chance to compete, I want to give the team the best chance to win and hopefully that is with me on the field. If Coach makes a decision that someone else will give us a better chance on that given day, I’ll listen to what he says and I’ll go with that.”
After Wednesday’s practice, Gruden said that he wants Galloway to play.
"I expect him to, but we have a couple of more days to go and we'll have to see how he feels," said Gruden. "He's getting better."
Gruden has a very good reason for wanting Galloway to play in the season opener. The 36-year old speedster has absolutely torched the Saints since his arrival in Tampa Bay in 2004 due to the fact that New Orleans has been known to primarily play man coverage. That has allowed Galloway to beat man coverage and do more damage against the Saints than any other team.
In 2004, Galloway only played against the Saints once, but caught two passes for 18 yards and one touchdown, in addition to returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown in that game. In 2005, Galloway had a total of nine catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns in two outings against New Orleans. The next year, Galloway hauled in a combined eight catches for 207 yards and three scores. Last season was Galloway’s most productive yet as Tampa Bay swept New Orleans while recording 11 receptions for 294 yards and two scores in both contests.
“Don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell them,” a smirking Galloway said when he was asked about his big games against the Saints. “With me being unhealthy, I would suggest that they play man-to-man as they don’t have much to worry about with the way I’ve been feeling lately. I haven’t been playing in many games. It’s safe to say that man-to-man coverage is fine.
“I’ll be rusty and I’ll be a little slow. If I was New Orleans looking at what I’ve done in the preseason, I would relax a little and think that there is not much to worry about.”
Sarcasm aside, the “White Tiger” wants to be let out of his cage on Sunday, but that is ultimately up to Gruden, who has a new nickname, according to Galloway.
“These guys in the locker room are more understanding than Coach is,” Galloway said with a laugh. “These guys sort of smirk and laugh and say, ‘As long as you are ready on Sunday, everything is okay.’ Now the ‘Zookeeper’ is a little different. He likes to see you out there. Those days when I didn’t practice, boy, [Gruden] would give it to me at night. These guys in here, I think they trust me.”
When asked what he thought about his “White Tiger” moniker, Galloway said, “I addressed that. I think you guys misunderstood what he was trying to get across. He was trying to say that he’s the boss. What he is saying is the ‘White Tiger’ will be ready to eat when he says so. Whenever he is ready for me to eat, and hopefully that is this Sunday, then I’ll be ready. The ‘Zookeeper’ posts the times when the ‘White Tiger’ gets to eat. I hope he’s going to post one this Sunday so I can eat.”
Galloway is hungry to get back on the field. The last game he played in for Tampa Bay was a 24-14 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in which his badly damaged shoulder only allowed him to catch one pass for nine yards. Galloway also had one carry for a 4-yard loss.
“That game is a game that has made it tough to sleep some nights,” Galloway said. “That would be a dream situation to go into healthy. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.”
While Galloway’s hurt groin has been the most concerning injury to the team, the veteran wide receiver said his shoulder is still not fully healed.
“It depends on what you mean by 100 percent,” Galloway said. “I wouldn’t say it’s back to where it used to be, but at the same time, it’s functional. It’s just one of those things we’ll have to deal with as we go into each and every game.”
With the Buccaneers already needing a big win on opening day due to the fact that the Saints are an NFC South opponent, expect to see Galloway in the starting lineup on Sunday. And given his past production against the Saints, it would behoove Gruden to make sure Galloway is heavily involved in the game plan.
“I keep telling Coach that the offense has to go through me,” Galloway said. “Now how much of that he listens to, I don’t know. As far as the offense is concerned, I have a job to do. There will be different times where it will be my job to block – hopefully not often. But sometimes I have to block. Sometimes I’ll have to just clear some guys out. Sometimes the ball comes to me.”
And when it does, Galloway shreds the Saints.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com