During his Monday morning press conference at One Buccaneer Place, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden updated the status of the injured Buccaneers.
The Bucs wide receiver position suffered another loss in the 20-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. After missing the contributions of Joey Galloway and Maurice Stovall, Tampa Bay could be without wide receiver Ike Hilliard. In the second quarter, Hilliard was sandwiched by Seahawks linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill. Hilliard left the game with a concussion and was briefly hospitalized before being cischarged during the morning.
"I was really proud of our team last night," said Gruden. "We played a really good football game. Ike Hilliard left the hospital last night. He checked out okay. I'm very happy to give you that news. I don't know what his status will be this week. Warrick Dunn was unable to finish the game. He's got a pinched nerve in his upper back. I'm concerned about him. Again it was a very good effort."
Dunn stayed in the game into the fourth quarter, and ran 13 times for 37 yards. He also caught four passes for 21 yards. Along with the wide receivers, the Buccaneers backfield is now dealing with another injury. Dunn's status for Sunday's game at Dallas will be updated on Wednesday. Fullback Byron Storer is out for the season with an injured knee, and fullback B.J. Askew is trying to come back from a torn hamstring and does not have a time set for his return.
"I just got done doing some running out there," said Askew. "I'm pushing it a little bit and definitely making progress. We'll do some more stuff tomorrow. We want to take it slow."
If Hilliard misses action the Buccaneers will need a receiver to step up in his place. With Galloway out, wide receiver Antonio Bryant has picked up the slack as the Buccaneers split end receiver. Against the Seahawks, Bryant had his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. He hauled in six passes for 115 yards and one touchdown. His 47-yard first quarter touchdown got Tampa Bay on the board, and set the tone for the team's victory. After being out of football during the 2007 season, Bryant has taken advantage of the opportunity with the Bucs.
"I don't know if it is a reclamation project," said Gruden. "This is a guy that won the Biletnikoff award at the University of Pittsburgh. He was a second-round draft choice that started opposite Michael Irvin as a rookie. He had a 1,000 yard season in '05 with the Browns. He led the 49ers in receiving in '06. He's got talent, and that has never been the question. I give him a lot of credit. I give Richard Mann a lot of credit. Those two guys have really hit it off. I think Antonio recognizes the future is now. He has to take advantage of the opportunity. He is leading our team from an offensive standpoint. He is at the top of the board in terms of effort. He has been a team guy and I'm really happy for his success. If he keeps doing what he's doing, he's going to be an outstanding receiver for the Bucs."
Galloway's return was believed to imminent, but the veteran missed the Sunday night game against his former team. Gruden was asked again about the return of his playmaking wide receiver.
"I've been quoted many times about this [white] tiger thing, I'll be looking in the cage today to see if he's out," said Gruden. "We'll play him if he's healthy. You got to be healthy to play. You got to practice. He didn't practice the whole training camp. He missed a lot of practice late last season. Really he hasn't practiced very much in a long time. He's picked it up the last couple of days. Hopefully he can go out there and move around, and have no restrictions. That is what I'm looking for, no restrictions, zero restrictions. Maybe he can help us in the return game, and maybe he can help us obviously as a receiver, because he is a great talent."
Gruden also said that if Galloway comes back, he would not bump Bryant out of the split end position that Bryant has started at with Galloway out.
"We won't move [Bryant]. We are not going to move him at this point in time," said Gruden. "Now if Joey does come back, we'll be creative as to how we get him going again. We obviously need him in the lineup."
Stovall spoke with the media on Monday for the first time since injuring his hamstring against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 12. After making his second tackle on kickoff coverage, Stovall limped off the field.
"I'm taking it day-to-day," said Stovall. "I'm getting better each day and coming in for treatment. I'm just doing what the trainers tell me to do. I don't know Ike's situation. I saw him yesterday and he seems to be doing fine. I wish him well and hope he recovers fast. He's a good player and we need him. But at the same time we have players that can step up and get the job done. Brian Clark stepped up big for us yesterday and played all three receiver positions. We have other guys, too.
"It's just a slight pull. I didn't tear it or anything."
The status of all the Buccaneers injured players will be updated on Wednesday when the first injury reports are released.