CAJUN RICE Nobody feasts on New Orleans Saints quarterbacks like Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice. In 13 career games against the black and gold, Rice has cooked up 16 sacks, most of which came against former left tackle Wayne Gandy. Gandy was acquired by the Atlanta Falcons in April of this year in exchange for safety Bryan Scott and an undisclosed draft pick. That prompted the Saints to move Jamaal Brown, a 2005 first-round draft pick, from right tackle, where he started all 16 games last year, to left tackle this season.
Despite his history of success, Rice will not play overconfident.
“I come in the game with a very humble approach, that’s my leverage,” Rice said. “I never feel like it’s just going come. I go looking for it. I take that competitive mentality.
Rice feels he has to have a stellar individual performance in order for the Buccaneers to come away with a victory this week. In the team’s last meeting, the 2005 regular season finale in Tampa, Rice recorded the 33rd multi-sack performance of his career, taking down Saints quarterback Todd Bouman twice. Rice, who needs just 10 sacks to tie Bucs Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon’s franchise sack record of 78.5, doesn’t feel his success against the Saints had anything to do with Gandy and knows this week presents a new challenge.
“It just happened. I got the sacks versus the Saints, not necessarily against Gandy,” Rice said. “He’s a good player. The new guy looks like he’s a really good talent and I have a lot of work cut our for me. It’s never easy. That’s the whole idea behind the humble approach, you can’t just roll your [stuff] out there and say my [stuff] is that fly.
“The bigger ambition right now is to get to .500 and get our first victory. If we can accomplish that it’s a small task in the bigger scheme of things.”
IF IT WIGGLES, HIT IT While that one jaw dropping moment may have yet to come, anyone who watched film of New Orleans running back Reggie Bush’s college days at Southern Cal knows the elusive back can make defenders look downright silly at times.
Buccaneer linebackers coach Joe Barry went back to basics during the bye week, putting his unit through extensive tackling drills, making sure that this Sunday won’t be the week Bush starts that highlight reel.
“Our tackling has been poor to this point,” Barry said. “We’re one of those defenses where one missed tackle is too many. And we’ve had multiple missed tackles in each one of our three games.
“It’s something we spent a lot of time on in the bye week, just going back and re-teaching the details of making tackles and where your eyes should be and where your hands should be. Wrapping and grabbing cloth.”
Buccaneers defenders have signs posted in each of their lockers this week, reading “IF IT WIGGLES, HIT IT”. No doubt Bush can wiggle out of some tight situations. Coming out of college, many wanted to compare his running style to Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers, being that he could break on a dime and accelerate out of a cut with amazing speed.
However, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft is averaging a humble 3.3 yards per carry. His longest run this season is 18 yards. But with 4.35 speed, being the last tackler between Bush and the end zone, no matter where you’re at on the field, is not an enviable position.
“The biggest thing is just try not to shuffle your feet,” Buccaneer linebacker Shelton Quarles said. “Be decisive about what you decide to do and hit it. A lot of time you get caught with a guy like that who is shifty and you try to break down, but instead of breaking down you just shoot your gun. And know that if you miss, where you can miss.”
While Bush holds much of the spotlight in New Orleans, Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden was quick to point out Saints RB Deuce McAllister.
“The guy nobody is talking about is No. 26,” Gruden said of the 6-foot-1, 230-pound McAllister, who has started all four games for the Saints this year after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. “He’s one hell of a load, too.”
McAllister may be at an advantage this season because he appears to be playing at a lighter weight, but also because Bush acts as a perfect decoy when both are on the field simultaneously.
“I think it’s a great compliment for any offense to have, that thunder and lightening or whatever some call it,” Barry said. “What we must remember is to read our keys and do your job playing within the defense.
“We can’t be worried that ‘oh, No. 25 is over there’. I think they play on that a bit. I think they get you so worried about Reggie [Bush] that it takes you away from ‘shoot, they’re handing the ball off to Big Deuce’. We as coaches have been taking about that all week, reading your keys and doing your job.”
NO PLACE LIKE DOME Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, this week’s trip to the Superdome represents a homecoming for Buccaneer wide out Michael Clayton. He holds the Louisiana State University record for career touchdown receptions with 21 and finished second in school history in receptions with 182. He is the only player in LSU history to have at least 700 yards receiving in three straight seasons.
Returning to New Orleans to play in front of friends and family in a stadium that was all but given up on following Hurricane Katrina is in the back of his mind, but come Sunday he says separating the emotions will be easy once the whistle blows.
“I love [Louisiana]. There’s no place like home,” Clayton said following Friday’s practice. “I played there when it was packed for the national championship so I know the intensity level and magnitude it can amount to.
“As a professional football player, you know, I do this for a living and I’m able to put [the emotions] to the side. My main focus is to go out and lead a relentless attack versus the Saints. When the game is over we can get back to the emotions and stuff. But between the lines it’s football and nothing but football.”
SWAMP THING Bucs WR Michael Clayton packed an extra jersey in his luggage for the road trip to New Orleans. It doesn’t have the No. 80 on it, though. He made sure to pack his white, game worn, No. 14 Tigers jersey with him, not to wear himself but for fellow teammate Ike Hilliard.
Should Clayton’s alma mater (No. 10- LSU) defeat Hilliard’s alma mater (No. 5 – Florida) in Gainesville Saturday Hilliard will wear the jersey as part of a friendly bet. Clayton didn’t seem too worried about having to wear blue and orange.
“They chose us for their homecoming,” Clayton said. “Wow. That’s all I’m going to say. Wow.”
MOORE MISSES PRACTICE AGAIN For the second consecutive day, Bucs tight end/long snapper Dave Moore missed practice at One Buccaneer Place. Moore, who has been sidelined since he suffered a rib and lung injury in Tampa Bay’s Week 1 contest vs. Baltimore, remains questionable on the team’s injury report.
Moore, guard David Joseph (knee), cornerback Brian Kelly (foot) and linebacker Ryan Nece (knee) will be game-time decisions, according to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. All four players are listed as questionable for the game vs. the Saints. Bucs quarterback Chris Simms (Splenectomy) is out.
Joseph, the Bucs’ 2006 first-round draft pick, injured his knee during the first week of regular season. While he will not start at right guard on Sunday, Gruden believes Joseph has a chance to see some action on special teams in New Orleans.
“Yeah. I think he’s going to be a great player; he’s just got to get active,” Gruden said of Joseph. “He has a chance to be active for this game. He won’t start but there is a chance he’ll be active. He’s closing in on his return. He made some real leaps and bounds in his recovery and we’re really impressed with what we see.”
NECE TO CONDUCT CHARITY AUTOGRAPH SIGNING Bucs starting linebacker Ryan Nece will conduct a charity autograph signing from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the Authentic Team Merchandise "It's Bucs and Bulls Heaven" store in Tampa.
The cost is $10 per autograph and a $10 minimum in-store purchase is required at the charity autograph signing, which will benefit the Good Samaritan Program.
For more information, call (813) 908-BUCS(2827) or visit the Authentic Team Merchandise "It's Bucs and Bulls Heaven" store in Tampa.
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