The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a healthy team after their bye week and entering their Week 9 game with the Green Bay Packers. The Bucs did not have a player sit out Thursday's practice, and it was the second straight day where every member of the team had some level of participation in practice.
On Wednesday the only players limited in practice were cornerback Aqib Talib (ankle) and guard Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder). Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said both were able practice on Thursday.
"Aqib [Talib], was back to full practice," Morris said. "Jeremy Zuttah was full practice. Antonio Bryant was limited. Michael Clayton was full practice. Elbert Mack was limited in practice today."
The Bucs starting wide receivers of Bryant and Clayton have had some nagging injuries all season. Bryant has had to deal with a knee injury the whole year, and Clayton has dealt with a variety of issues while presently nursing a wrist injury. Cornerback Elbert Mack rolled his ankle during Thursday's practice, but Morris said it wasn't serious.
"I'm pretty good, it was just a basketball turn," Talib said of his ankle injury. "I went out there and covered real [well]. I'll be good for the game."
After practice Talib spoke to the media for the first time in a while. Talib had been the center of some controversy lately as he was rumored to be involved in a loud explicit-laden argument with Morris the night of the Bucs loss to the Patriots in London. Talib and other players came in late after the team curfew. Morris downplayed the incident on Tuesday. He said Talib has never disrespected him.
When asked for his version of the events, and if the incident was minor and blown out of proportion, Talib would not comment on anything outside of football.
"Raheem already told you guys what happened so I'm not really going to get into that," said Talib. "I'm sticking to football questions. Rah kind of already explained to you guys what happened, so I'll leave it at that.
"I'm not going to get into it all".
On the field Talib has had a successful season through seven games. Talib has 30 tackles with four interceptions and eight passes defensed. He leads the team in interceptions and passes broken up. The Buccaneers have been relying on Talib in man coverage to take away the best receiver on the opposing team each game.
"I'm challenged every week," Talib said. "Coming into the NFL this is what I dreamed of doing. Playing against the best receiver on the other team week in and week out. I got another challenge coming up this week. It is going to be Greg Jennings, 85, and he is a premier receiver in the league. He gets a lot of balls and catches a lot of touchdowns. He's a pretty good receiver, so I'll have my hands full again this week."
Talib will have to try and shutdown the connection of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to Jennings. Rodgers has completed 65.3 percent of his passes for 1,989 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. The ability of Rodgers to protect the football has led the Packers produce a NFL-best plus-12 turnover ratio. Jennings is averaging 15 yards per catch. He has 29 receptions for 437 yards and two touchdowns.
"I think what [Rodgers] has is two [interceptions] on the season," Talib said. "He doesn't throw lots of picks. He's smart. He'll take a sack before he'll throw an interception. He is pretty smart quarterback when it comes to throwing interceptions. We have to put our game plan together and try to make plays on him."
Talib said that Rodgers' mobility to break out of the pocket and extend plays with his feet is a challenge for the Bucs secondary.
"Definitely, we call it plaster," Talib said. "We have to stick with our receivers, and keep our eyes on our receivers and be ready for him to run the playground routes. We've been practicing that all week."
Thus far in 2009 Talib has faced some of the best wide receivers the NFL features. Some of the daunting wideouts that he has matched up against have included: Buffalo's Lee Evans, Carolina's Steve Smith, Washington's Santana Moss, Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, and most recently New England's Randy Moss. The Patriots future Hall-of-Fame receiver Moss had five receptions for 69 yards against Talib. The Bucs second-year corner also intercepted a pass from New England quarterback Tom Brady intended for Moss.
"Moss might have been the best guy I went against all year," said Talib. "I did my best against him.
"When you against guys like Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Santana Moss, you have no choice but to get better every week."
NO BLACKOUT The Buccaneers throwback game against Green Bay will not be blacked out. The Bucs' home contest isn't sold out, but enough tickets have been sold to allow the game to be broadcast locally in the Tampa Bay area. A limited number of tickets remain available to purchase through ticketmaster.com
GREEN BAY INJURY REPORT The Packers had six players sit out of Thursday's practice: wide receiver Donald Driver (neck), tight end Jermichael Finley (knee), wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee), quarterback Aaron Rodgers (feet), center/guard Jason Spitz (back), and safety Derrick Martin. Limited in practice was fullback Korey Hall (calf). Linebacker Brandon Chillar has been out the past two days with a hand injury.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org