The Tampa Bay Buccaneers practiced for the second consecutive day on Wednesday without starting right guard Davin Joseph, who will be sidelined for several weeks due to a broken foot he sustained in Sunday night's 27-10 win over the New England Patriots.
"Well, I don't know how much time it is going to be," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said when asked how long Joseph would be out with the injury. "It is an injury similar to the one that [linebacker] Cato June had last year. This is one strange bird. I've said that about [wide receiver] Joey Galloway, but knowing Davin he is the kind of guy that might take the boot off and play. I'm not going to discount him playing in the opener or in the third week of the season. I'm just going to say that right now he will not play against Jacksonville. There is a chance that he might not be ready for a couple of weeks, but we'll just keep updating you week in and week out and see how Davin does."
Joseph's line mate, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, is good friends with Joseph. Both players originally entered the NFL together in 2006. Trueblood said Joseph's attitude was positive and that he was looking forward to getting back out on the field.
"He's upbeat," Trueblood said of Joseph. "He's not depressed by it or anything like that. He's ready to get back to work once he's done with rehab."
Although the Bucs have not announced their starting lineup for their next preseason contest vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars, it appears as though rookie offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah could start in place of Joseph.
"I practiced at guard today," said Zuttah. "When I came here I knew I was going to play several positions, but some days more guard reps than center and some days more center reps than guard. I just do whatever they tell me to do.
"[The coaching staff] hasn't told me anything yet. I came out to practice and they told me to play right guard. That was it."
Joseph leaves some big shoes to fill. He has started 28 of the 29 games he's played in since entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2006.
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Joseph played an integral role in Tampa Bay's ability to finish the 2007 season ranked 11th in rushing offense, which was the highest it had ever finished a season ranked under Gruden.
Zuttah (6-4, 303) still is learning the ropes in the NFL. The third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft did have starting experience at Rutgers, where he started 44 games in four seasons while playing both tackle spots and the left guard position.
The Bucs drafted Zuttah primarily for depth, and they'll be taking advantage of the depth he provides much sooner than the team had anticipated. However, Zuttah believes he's up to the challenge.
"It's exciting," said Zuttah. "The coaches said you just have to be ready for your chance because you never know when it's going to come, and if you're not ready for that opportunity when it comes it might never come again."
Since Joseph's injury could take several weeks to heal, there's a chance he will miss Tampa Bay's 2008 regular season opener vs. New Orleans on Sept. 7. If that turns out to be the case, Zuttah could be the player taking his place in the starting lineup.
"It's not opening day yet, so I'm just trying to get better each day," said Zuttah. "Hopefully by the time opening day comes I'll be ready. I'm just trying to get ready for tomorrow. I'm taking it one day at a time."
The Bucs have spent a significant amount of time and resources developing their offensive line over the past few years. The Bucs made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the NFL during free agency in the offseason and have invested a first-round pick in Joseph and two second-round selections in guard Arron Sears and Trueblood, respectively.
Joseph and Trueblood have developed a strong bond and chemistry together since being drafted by the Bucs in '06. Both players can relate to Zuttah in the fact that they started at their respective positions during their rookie seasons.
"As a rookie one of the biggest problems is how fast the game moves," said Trueblood. "It's happening that way because you don't know exactly what's going on along the defensive line, or you don't know 100 percent of what you're doing. If you know what you're doing then the game will slow down for you. That only comes with experience."
Trueblood said that he and Zuttah would have to work on developing their own chemistry while Joseph is nursing his foot injury, but expressed confidence in the rookie's ability to play in his place.
"Davin and I have our own calls that we made up ourselves, that way no one else will know them," said Trueblood. "Honestly, we have stuff like that. We don't really talk during the games that much anyways. We know what each other is going to do. Davin is one hell of a player. Jeff [Faine] will tell you that. Davin knows what's going on before the play even happens. He helps you out as much as possible.
"Z [Zuttah] is doing great. You can obviously tell that he's come a long way since OTAs. He knows what he's doing and has learned the playbook fast, which is impressive. He has all of the physical tools, so I expect him to do well.
"He's been coming out here and working his tail off each day and preparing and staying focused. If he keeps preparing that way he'll be just fine."
Despite the loss of Joseph, Bucs offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir does not believe there will be a substantial drop off in the play of starting offensive line.
"Will it be seamless? Obviously not. There will be some growing involved in it," Muir said of Zuttah possibly starting at right guard in place of Joseph. "Should it be detrimental to our ability to effectively play? Absolutely not."
Zuttah is not guaranteed the opportunity to start at right guard. That's because fourth-year offensive lineman Dan Buenning still is a player the Bucs could turn to in an effort to fill the void left by Joseph.
"No, I can't right now," Gruden said when asked if Zuttah was the starting right guard now. "We're working on our rotations at this point in time. Obviously Jeremy Zuttah will be a factor at that position. Dan Buenning has experience of playing guard. There are other possibilities of adding a player here or there, so I don't want to say too much at this point, but we're confident in the guys we have. We're also going to miss our team captain here temporarily, but the good news is it is not a serous injury that is going to inhibit him or his career.
"Zuttah, he's just shown us that he is a quick study. He is a guy that we think has the range to be an interior player, whether it be a left guard, right guard, or center. Obviously there will be some growing pains. I'm not going to say he is going to be the right guard, I'm just saying he is a candidate. But we do like our young offensive guard from Rutgers."
Buenning (6-4, 320) has started 23 of the 25 games he's played in since entering the league as a fourth-round pick in 2005. Although he has spent most of the offseason working at center and left guard, Buenning started every game at left guard as a rookie, which was the same season running back Cadillac Williams earned the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
"He's still in the mix," Muir said of Buenning. "Nobody has announced the starting lineup for the New Orleans Saints game. If you look at our preseason games each week one of those two men [Buenning and Zuttah] has been featured at guard and/or center. It was Jeremy's week to be the center last week and it's his week to be the guard this week. I think you'd be premature to read anything into it at this time."
Not only are Zuttah and Buenning battling for the right to start at right guard in Joseph's place, they've spent the entire offseason competing for a 53-man roster spot. Muir has liked what he has seen from that competition.
"It's been pretty intense," said Muir. "I can't imagine getting much more intense, to be honest with you."
Garcia, Galloway Expected To Play vs. Jags
Bucs quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf) and wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin) practiced at One Buccaneer Place for the second straight day on Wednesday.
Galloway missed all of training camp with the groin injury while Garcia was sidelined for a significant portion of camp due to his ailment.
Neither player has played in Tampa Bay's first two preseason games, but that could change on Saturday night when the Bucs host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We'll see how [Jeff] feels here. We have that right, but I'd like to get him out there and get him some snaps where he gets some game speed. I'd like to get him acclimated a little bit. I asked a lot of racecar drivers the same question. You don't show up for NASCAR and race around the track for 500 miles. You have practice runs and things like that. I want him to get acclimated to the speed of the game. More than anything I want him to be in the huddle with his teammates. A quarterback reflects the image of an offense's football team. Certainly we need our captain out there and we need to get him some work.
"Jeff Garcia looked much better today, and Joey Galloway looked better today. I don't know either's availability until actually we kick this thing off on Saturday.
Bucs Make Roster Move
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced that they have signed guard Phil Bogle. To make room for him they released fullback J.D. Runnels. Bogle orginally signed with Tampa Bay in 2005. He was released later that year and re-signed with the team in 2006. For the second time, he was released later that same year. Bogle has never been on the Bucs regular season roster, and has played two seasons for the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League.
Quote Of The Day
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on each NFL team being required to trim their rosters to 75 players on Aug. 26:
"It is big for everybody in the NFL. We're running out of time to make the final evaluations. We'll try to adjust the playing time to make sure the players get the opportunity to showcase their skills. Hopefully at the end of the day we can at least say we've been fair. That's important to me."
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