JUREVICIUS SET TO PLAY AGAINST BEARS:
Not all of the news coming out of One Buccaneer Place Tuesday was bad. Sure, the Bucs fell to 1-5 on Monday night by losing the St. Louis Rams, 28-21, but head coach Jon Gruden was pleased to announce that wide receiver Joe Jurevicius, who has been sidelined for nearly a year with a sprained MCL he suffered in Week 2 of the 2003 season and a herniated disc he sustained in the offseason during his knee rehab, will play against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
“Joe is going to play in this game,” Gruden said. “My understanding is that he’s ready to go. I give that guy a lot of credit. He’s had a lifetime of frustration with the injury to his knee. He rehabbed it diligently and suffered a back injury during his rehab. But he’s been possessed working out with our strength and conditioning coaches and getting himself ready to play. What capacity his role is will be decided this week, but it will be a great thing for our offensive team to get a guy we’ve counted on and missed.”
Jurevicius, 29, played an integral role in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run in 2002, catching 37 passes for 423 yards and two touchdowns.
Jurevicius hasn’t been able to practice at full speed since last September, which is when his serious knee injury occurred, and the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver underwent back surgery to correct the herniated disc on August 2.
He spent the first six weeks of the 2004 regular season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Sunday will mark the first time Jurevicius takes the field for a game since November 30.
The Bucs were hoping to get another receiver — Joey Galloway — back from a groin tear he suffered against the Redskins in Week 1, but Gruden suggested Galloway’s much-anticipated return may have to wait until the team’s November 7 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I don’t think Joey will be ready to go this week,” said Gruden. “He’s running and doing sprint work now and hopefully, if not this week, he’ll be back after the bye.”
DT GREGORY OUT FOR THE SEASON:
Tampa Bay had a handful of players injured during Monday night’s 28-21 loss to St. Louis. The most serious injury was suffered by backup DT Damian Gregory, who is out for the season with a torn patella tendon.
“That’s too bad,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Gregory’s injury. “He’s a young guy that came in here and did a great job for us. We’ll miss him.”
Wide receiver Charles Lee suffered a right knee sprain and will be listed as day-to-day. Fullback Greg Comella left Monday night’s game early with a left pec sprain and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Tight end/long snapper Dave Moore left the game with a concussion and will be listed as questionable. If Moore can’t play, Ken Dilger will long snap. Fullback Mike Alstott has a right hip pointer and is listed as probable. Defensive tackle Ellis Wyms has a left shoulder sprain and will be evaluated later in the day.
Because of the late game and the trip from St. Louis back to Tampa, Gruden said most of the players on the injury report need to be evaluated further.
BUCS CONCERNED ABOUT GRAMATICA’S KICKING WOES:
The Buccaneers are kicking themselves for missed opportunities in Monday night’s loss to the Rams.
Two of those blown opportunities came on kicker Martin Gramatica’s failed field goal attempts from 35 and 48 yards out. Both kicks were wide left.
Gramatica, who made just 61.5 percent of his field goal attempts in 2003 and was 6-of-10 (60 percent) during preseason, is just 9-of-13 (69.2 percent) on field goal tries this season.
Needless to say, head coach Jon Gruden is concerned about Gramatica, who made over 79 percent of his field goal attempts during his four years with the Bucs but has struggled mightily over the past two seasons.
‘We’re obviously concerned,” Gruden said about Gramatica. “Three misses in the last two games are reason to be concerned. We’re concerned, but at the same time we’re counting on him. I know that when I got this job one of the things I first noticed was that Gramatica had a lot to do with some 12-10 and 15-9 wins. He was a ice man and tremendous kicker. We need him to quickly return to that form.”
Gruden and Tampa Bay special teams coach Richard Bisaccia have been working with Gramatica in an effort to correct his kicking woes, but remedying the problem hasn’t been easy.
“You can only work on it so much,” said Gruden. “He’s very good out on the practice field. For whatever reason, he has struggled in games over the last year and a half from an accuracy standpoint. He’s had good conditions to kick in over the last two weeks. We expect so much from him because we’ve seen him deliver. His approach is good. He’s hooking at times and pushing it at others. I don’t know. All I can say is we have to make our kicks. We’ve got to make good on our kicks. I’m watching New England’s 20-game winning streak and (kicker) Adam Vinatieri is a big reason for that. We’ve got to get better there.”
Gramatica is signed through the 2008 season, but according to Gruden, the team is auditioning other kickers while hoping that Gramatica recapture the form that earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2000.
“We had some kickers in last week,” said Gruden. ‘We’re looking for not only field goal kickers but we’re looking for kickoff guys that possess that skill. They don’t grow on trees. At the same time, we feel like we have a guy here under contract that’s a great talent. We don’t want to give up on him – we just need to get more results out of him.”
BUCS OFF TO WORST START SINCE 1996:
With its 28-21 loss to St. Louis on Monday night, Tampa Bay fell to 1-5 on the season, which is its worst start since 1996. The Bucs finished the ’96 season with a 6-10 record.
But with the exception of Tampa Bay’s 30-20 loss in Oakland, all of the Bucs’ losses have been decided by one score.
“You might say this is the best 1-5 team in the league,” said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.
Self-inflicted wounds cost the Bucs a win against the Rams. Tampa Bay fumbled the ball twice inside the red zone and missed two field goals. Running back Michael Pittman’s fumble was returned 93 yards for a touchdown, and the fumble that came as a result of a botched quarterback-center exchange led to a Rams touchdown.
“The offense has played pretty well over the last three games,” said Gruden. “Turnovers were obviously decisive blows against us last night. We had a fumbled snap inside our own 10-yard line and we fumbled the snap at the 1-inch line against Seattle. Fumbled snaps at center have arguably cost us two football games. The Rams are a good football team. I’m very proud of the effort of our team.
“The turnovers were our nemesis.”
GRIESE BUCS’ STARTER FOR FORESEEABLE FUTURE:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden was pleased with the performance of quarterback Brian Griese, who completed 27-of-40 passes for 286 yards and tossed two touchdowns and one interception.
“I thought Brian Griese was outstanding in the game,” said Gruden. “I’m excited about what Brian Griese has done in this system. He’s been outstanding. I’ve felt very, very good about what he’s done.”
According to Gruden, Griese will be Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, even when Chris Simms returns from his shoulder injury.
“I think I am,” Gruden said when asked if he was ready to say that Griese is the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future. “He’s done very, very good and has had some nice performances. Chris Simms was the starter in New Orleans and didn’t do too bad. He did some good things. But when you complete 74 or 75 percent of your passes in consecutive weeks on the road, and you look at the tape and the types of plays Brian’s made, that gets your attention.”
Gruden said Simms, who was inactive for Monday night’s game in St. Louis due to the injury, is doing better, but he may not be able to suit up against the Bears.
“He felt better last night,” Gruden said of Simms. “He did some short toss, but I don’t believe he’s ready to go yet. If not, we’ll continue to have Jason Garrett active and Chris inactive.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden when asked if it was in the best interest of the team to trade wide receiver Keenan McCardell and quarterback Brad Johnson:
“We don’t play fantasy football here. You might say this is the best 1-5 team in the league. Take one play out of four or five games and we might be sitting differently. We’re not going to give up on this season. We’re not going to do that, and we’re not going to listen to the rumor mill and play fantasy football. We respect Brad Johnson and we want him on the football team. He played a role last night, although he didn’t play in the game, with me and our quarterbacks. As for Keenan McCardell’s status, ask (general manager) Bruce Allen. I’m just doing the best I can with the men that our healthy and I’d prefer to talk about the men that are playing.”
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