Just two weeks after playing in his first regular season game in nearly a year, wide receiver Joe Jurevicius is back on the injury report.
Jurevicius, who missed most of the 2003 season with a torn MCL and suffered a herniated disc in his lower back while rehabbing the knee injury, which required surgery in August, started against the Chicago Bears on October 24. He caught two passes for 21 yards.
Because he hadn’t played in a game since November of 2003, Jurevicius was understandably sore after the game against Chicago, which apparently prompted the Bucs to list him as questionable for this Sunday’s game vs. Kansas City with a lower back strain.
“I feel fine,” Jurevicius said after practicing without incident on Wednesday. “It took a little time, but I feel fine and I’m ready to play in my next game.
“After the first game I was pretty sore, but after having a week off I feel pretty good right now.”
Not only is Jurevicius expected to play Sunday, he could also make his second consecutive start at the X (split-end) receiver position.
“He’s listed as questionable,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said after practice. “We expect him to play and start at split end. We’ll see how he feels here as the week unfolds. He’s getting better but he still has some soreness.”
Gruden’s suggestion that Jurevicius would start at split end opposite rookie WR Michael Clayton isn’t good news for WR Joey Galloway, who despite practicing for nearly a week is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the groin injury he sustained back in Week 1 at Washington.
“He’s running around a little bit,” Gruden said of Galloway. “He’s very questionable for this game.”
Charles Lee, who missed the game against Chicago after spraining his knee on Oct. 18 against St. Louis, is also listed as questionable.
“He’s getting better,” Gruden said of Lee. “We’ve got several members of our receiving corps who have their assorted injuries. He’s getting better and he’s questionable also. So we might need to use [offensive tackle Todd] Steussie as a wide receiver this week. We’re working with him.”
Gruden, of course, was kidding about using the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Steussie as a receiver, and he kidded some more with the media on Wednesday.
“He’s capable of stretching the field,” Gruden said of Steussie. “He’s very athletic. You’d be surprised.”
Bucs second-year quarterback Chris Simms, who has been sidelined since Oct. 10 with a shoulder sprain he suffered during the first quarter of Tampa Bay’s game at New Orleans, is apparently on the mend, but he’s not ready to practice at full speed just yet.
“He’s getting better but he’s not quite ready to go,” Gruden said of Simms. “I expect him to be very questionable to be able to play.”
Should Simms not be able to play Sunday, Brad Johnson will be Brian Griese’s backup while Jason Garrett serves as the team’s third-string (emergency) signal caller.
In addition to those injuries, fullback Mike Alstott (knee) is out and linebackers Derrick Brooks and Shelton Quarles (leg) are listed as probable for the game against the Chiefs.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a lengthy injury report as well. Running backs Priest Holmes (ankle) and Larry Johnson (hip), defensive tackle Ryan Sims (hamstring), tackle John Welbourn (knee) and cornerback William Bartee (foot) are listed as probable. Running back Derrick Blaylock (thigh), fullback Omar Easy (hamstring), CB Dexter McCleon (hamstring) and DT Junior Siavili (ankle) are questionable. Linebacker Monty Beisel (calf) is doubtful and tight end Kris Wilson (ankle) is out for Sunday’s game.
GRAHAM TO BE ACTIVE SUNDAY:
Just one week after promoting running back Earnest Graham to the active roster, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested Wednesday that the first-year tailback out of Florida could see some playing time against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday.
“We’ll see how the game goes,” Gruden said when asked how much playing time Graham would get. “He’s prepared to play fullback. He can help us in the one-back stuff. He can play. We’ll see how the game develops. But he’s ready to go, he’ll be active and what his contribution is will be announced on Sunday.”
The Bucs are hoping Graham can help fill the void left by FB Mike Alstott, who is sidelined for approximately three more weeks with a MCL sprain he suffered in the game against the Bears. Although Graham was impressive in preseason, Gruden tried to temper people’s enthusiasm, especially the reporter who asked the Bucs’ head coach if Graham could follow in the developmental path of Chiefs RB Priest Holmes, who originally entered the NFL in 1997 as an undrafted free agent out of Texas and has gone on to rush for 7,525 yards (4.7 avg.) and score 79 touchdowns.
“We’re not going to compare him to Priest Holmes,” Gruden said of Graham. “A lot of guys in this league have come from different backgrounds. It’s a credit to Priest Holmes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Brad Johnson came from somewhat of an obscure background also, and so did Shelton Quarles and a lot of great players that I know of. This is a launching pad for Earnest Graham, and we’ll see what happens.”
Graham rushed for a team-high three touchdowns in preseason and said he hopes to make contributions, especially in short-yardage and goal line situations, on Sunday.
“Mike Alstott is Mike Alstott,” Graham said. “I’ve done pretty well as far as showing the goal line situations. I’m just going to go out there and do me. I hope that I can make some plays and be part of the team.”
With Graham likely to serve as RB Michael Pittman’s backup and a replacement for Alstott, Jamel White could be inactive for the game against the Chiefs.
BUCS PREPARE FOR CHIEFS’ EXPLOSIVE OFFENSE:
Sunday’s game between the 3-4 Kansas City Chiefs and 2-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers is a big one. After all, both teams are fighting to keep their playoff aspirations alive.
But most of that chatter has been quieted this week, mostly because of the Chiefs, who are receiving a plethora of attention and scaring a lot of teams these days after scoring 101 points during their two-game winning streak. To put that number in perspective, the Bucs have totaled 109 points this season (seven contests).
The Chiefs deserve to be the talk of the town, and Tampa Bay’s defense, which ranks number two overall in the NFL, doesn’t seem to mind the fact that Kansas City’s No. 3 ranked offense is practically taking all of the spotlight off the Pewter Pirates.
“They’re probably in the top three offensive teams coming in,” Bucs defensive end Greg Spires said of the Chiefs. “They put up 101 points in the last two games. We’re the underdogs. They’re expected to beat us.”
Tampa Bay, which is three and a half games behind the first-place Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South Division, can’t really afford to lose to Kansas City, though. That said, in order to down the Chiefs, the Bucs know they have to do the same things that helped them tame St. Louis’ high-powered offense in the 1999 NFC Championship Game. Although the Bucs lost to the Rams in that game, they held Dick Vermeil’s explosive offense to just 11 points. Stopping the Chiefs starts with containing running back Priest Holmes and tight end Tony Gonzalez, both of whom are arguably Kansas City’s best offensive weapons.
“They are the same pretty much, but they run the ball a lot more,” Bucs safety Jermaine Phillips said of the similarities between the Rams and Chiefs offenses. “Their strength lies in their offensive line with Priest Holmes and [Tony] Gonzalez. They are going to try to exploit us by using them, so we just have to be ready. We are up for the challenge.”
Keeping up with an athletic tight end like Gonzalez, who has hauled in a team-leading 34 passes for 453 yards and four touchdowns, is possible for the Bucs, whose linebackers pride themselves on speed, tackling and pass coverage. However, containing Holmes is another story.
Holmes has rushed for 833 yards (4.6 avg.) and 13 touchdowns this season. Last year, he totaled 27 rushing touchdowns. In addition to his skills as a runner, Holmes is quite the receiver, evidenced by his 307 career receptions for 2,745 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Bucs know they must bring their A game on defense in order to limit Holmes’ production on Sunday.
“Play it one snap at a time, and play Buc ball,” said Bucs defensive tackle Chartric Darby. “You’ve got to play on all cylinders. You can’t miss a gap. You’ve got to take it one snap at a time. Priest Holmes is a great back — there’s nothing you can say about that. You’ve got to give him that respect. But we’ve got a good team, too.”
While Tampa Bay ranks second overall in total defense, it has been inconsistent in its effort to stop the run. In fact, three teams — the Redskins, Raiders and Saints — have produced over 140 rushing yards against the Bucs this season. However, it’s only fair to point out the Bucs’ success against the likes of Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, Rams RB Marshall Faulk and Bears RB Thomas Jones, none of whom rushed for over 70 yards when they faced defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s troops.
According to Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden, whose 24th ranked offense will go up against Kansas City’s 20th ranked defense, the Bucs are not entering Sunday’s game in awe of the Chiefs offense.
“We’re high-powered on defense and we think of ourselves as high-powered, also,” said Gruden. “So we’re not going to make dramatic changes. We’re going to go out and play the game to the best of our abilities and play within our style.”
Although they both have losing records, the Bucs and Chiefs have won two of their past three games. Sunday’s game should be quite the matchup — the No. 3 offense in the NFL vs. the league’s No. 2 ranked defense. They say defenses win championships, and the Bucs will certainly need their defense to help them win Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Bucs safety Dwight Smith on whether going up against the impressive Kansas City Chiefs offense gives Tampa Bay’s defense extra motivation:
“I don’t think we need any motivation being 2-5.”
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