Buccaneers running back Derrick Ward returned to practice on Tuesday morning, shaking off a foot injury that had sidelined him for several days.
“We had D. Ward back,” Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said. “Most of you saw that Derrick Ward came back today. He was up and running.”
“I’m doing great. One hundred percent,” Ward said. “It felt great [to get back out there]. A little winded. I need to get back to this heat, but it felt good to be back.”
While Earnest Graham was listed as the starting halfback on the team’s depth chart that was released on Monday, Ward figures on getting plenty of carries as Morris and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski plan on using a platoon system with both backs and then sprinkling in Cadillac Williams and Clifton Smith, too.
“You’ve got to use the Giants format,” Morris said. “That was the perfect format. They had two 1,000-yard rushers and they had another guy rush for 500 yards. But sometimes you’ve got a running back that gets in a game and gets hot.”
Ward was one of New York’s 1,000-yard rushers last year and will be counted on to produce like he did a year ago whether he is the starter or helping the ground attack coming off the bench.
The Bucs spent a good deal of time working on a no-huddle offense on Tuesday morning, but not the conventional, hurry-up offense that featured the passing game. Instead, the Bucs were using the no-huddle offense to run the ball in the heat and will use this approach coupled with the notorious Tampa Bay heat and humidity to wear down opponents that travel to Raymond James Stadium.
“We had a little no-huddle offense today,” Morris said. “Talk about changing the tempo – today we had most of our run installed. A couple passes, but not as many as you would like to see when you go no-huddle and try to dictate the tempo. We talked earlier about embracing the heat and if we can get out and feel comfortable going out and that menacing heat – and it was menacing today – and call a no-huddle offense and you’re from another place … that’s tough duty for people. If we can embrace that and get that thing going and start to run the football and start to wear some people down and use the elements to our advantage. I love that thought.”
Ward’s return wasn’t the only injury-related news, Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant’s surgery went as well as could be expected.
“Antonio Bryant had successful surgery this morning,” Morris said. “He went down there and got it done. Everything was right on schedule that we talked about yesterday – three weeks. He could probably be back for the fourth game.”
Morris said that while right tackle Jeremy Trueblood returned from his back injury to take part in Tuesday’s afternoon practice, linebacker Geno Hayes injured his hamstring on Monday afternoon and joined a lengthy injury list that included: Clifton Smith (hamstring), center Jeff Faine (groin), linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring), defensive tackle Greg Peterson (knee), center Sean Mahan (calf) and receivers Michael Clayton (hamstring), Joel Filani (hamstring) and Kelly Campbell (quad).
During Tuesday morning’s practice kicker Matt Bryant had a setback with his injured leg.
“Matt Bryant was the only real new one in practice today, straining his hamstring a little bit,” Morris said. “I’m sure Matt Bryant has some concern and I’m sure his coach has some concern. We just have to get him to the game and let him kick and get him healthy and be ready to play and go out there and compete. He made all his kicks today. He kind of strained [his hamstring] and he stepped out. We just have to get him healthy.”
Morris said the Bucs were lucky to have an accomplished kicker like Mike Nugent already on the roster if Bryant’s hamstring continues to be problematic.
“Usually you don’t have two guys,” Morris said. “Usually you’ve got to get somebody off the street to compete with him. We, as an organization are kind of in a fortunate position, but we still want to see Matt Bryant at his very best and go out and compete.
“[Nugent] has a powerful leg. He has a nice pop. He’s a great kickoff man. He’s a number two draft pick coming out of Ohio State. He’s impressive. He has great talent. Now we just have to go out there and let him kick in a game.”
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