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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs preparing for battle with Oakland's defensive front

When the Bucs began breaking down film of the Raiders this week, one particular aspect of the team caught their eye: The defensive front.

That’s where defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly combine for a potent, physical combination the Bucs will have to contend with.

“They’re going to present some issues defensively with those two inside tackles,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “They’re as big and powerful as you’re going to see in this league. The linebackers are playing at a high level. We’re going to have to strap it up. It’s going to be one of those physical games.”

The Raiders make it tough on opponents’ running games. The Bucs are coming off a superb rushing performance, netting a season-high 159 rushing yards against the Vikings. Rookie Doug Martin rushed for 135 yards himself.

But in the past three games, Raiders opponents have averaged 66.3 rushing yards.

“We have a hell of a Raiders team we have to play this week,” left tackle Donald Penn said. “Their front four is very, very good. We have to go out there and battle. It’s going to be tough. …

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Schiano: Nicks' injury became unsafe

Bucs left guard Carl Nicks played through some considerable pain during the past several weeks - and is one of the toughest guys in the league - but his toe injury got to the point where it was unsafe to put  him out there, coach Greg Schiano said Wednesday.

Nicks, an All-Pro, was put on injured reserve Tuesday as the plantar plate - near the ball of the left foot - is torn, and will require surgery.

"You talk about a tough dedicated guy, this guy played through a ton of pain, and it just got to the point where he couldn't play anymore," Schiano said. "It got worse. There were some more tests done. At this point it's not safe. Before that, it was painful but now it's not safe and we need to get it fixed."

Nicks absence leaves a large void on the left side of the Bucs offensive line, which had also lost two-time Pro Bowl right guard Davin Joseph to a season-ending injury in the preseason. Schiano said Wednesday they plan to work with different combinations during the week to see how they'll replace Nicks. …

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Bucs visit Tampa's Potter Elementary

Check out this video featuring a visit by Bucs players to Tampa's Potter Elementary on Tuesday.

 

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So much for the Bucs' dominant offensive line

Remember back when the Bucs’ offensive line looked like world beaters?

The praise was warranted. The Bucs had three players who had made Pro Bowls (Donald Penn, Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph) plus a promising young center (Jeremy Zuttah). Jeremy Trueblood had his weaknesses, but is experienced and plays solidly at times.

And then the dismantling began. After Carl Nicks’ injury caused him to be placed on injured reserve, the Bucs will have just two of their original five starters when they take the field at Oakland on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the Bucs’ offensive line before and after the events of the past couple of months:

                      THEN                                                                     NOW

Left tackle: Donald Penn                                                     Donald Penn

Left guard: Carl Nicks (injured)                                                   ????

Center: Jeremy Zuttah                                                         Jeremy Zuttah

Right guard: Davin Joseph (injured)/Ted Larsen (benched) Jamon Meredith

Right tackle: Jeremy Trueblood                                            Demar Dotson

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Carl Nicks tried to play through injury but no longer could

nicks.jpgCarl Nicks has been playing hurt since mid-September. Think about that: The plate that holds his toes in place -- the plantar plate, it's called -- has presumably been torn for more than six weeks.

And, yet, Nicks hasn't missed a game before being placed on injured reserve today.

Now that we know the extent of the injury to Nicks -- previously it was described only as a toe injury -- we're getting a better picture of what he's been playing through for nearly two months. Nicks' injury, we are told by a source, has been getting gradually worse week after painful week. But it was not noticeable in his performance, which remained exemplary.

Nicks could be seen after games and practices carefully removing his cleats so that he wouldn't add to the discomfort. Known as one of the tougher guys in the league, this was an injury that even he couldn't continue to play through -- though not for a lack of trying. One person we talked to described Nicks as "tough as nails."

So, when you see Nicks' injury described as a "toe," you should know that the description doesn't even begin to cover it all.

(Photo by Daniel Wallace, Times Staff)

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Big blow for Bucs: All-Pro Carl Nicks out for season

The Bucs sustained another major injury blow today when All-Pro guard Carl Nicks was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

Nicks had been dealing with a toe injury that had severely limited his ability to practice in recent weeks but had not kept him out of any game action. He said in recent weeks that he anticipated the injury lingering through the season, but it wasn’t thought to be season-ending until now.

It’s likely Nicks’ injury worsened in the team’s win at Minnesota Thursday night, in which he played well. According to the Bucs, Nicks needs surgery to repair a torn plantar plate in his left toe.

The Bucs have seen a projected stout offensive line fall apart. Davin Joseph, the team’s longtime starter at right guard and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, was lost for the season with a knee injury in a preseason game. Then, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood’s underperformance caused a lineup change, the Bucs replacing him with Demar Dotson.

Nicks was a member of the team’s celebrated class of free agents this offseason, signing a 5-year, $47.5 million contract in March. …

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Trade deadline pushed back, but Blount still worth watching

The Bucs and the rest of the NFL now have until Thursday afternoon to negotiate any trades, as the NFL has pushed back its trade deadline because of Hurricane Sandy. Several teams’ operations and the NFL’s Manhattan headquarters have been affected by the storm.

Meanwhile, there continues to be speculation about Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount, and the notion of him being traded is not something you should dismiss.

It’s unclear whether the Bucs are willing to move him, but the reason for the speculation about Blount’s fate has to do with his bit role in the Bucs’ offense. Rookie Doug Martin is heating up, and coach Greg Schiano seems unlikely to take the ball away from Martin when he’s got the hot hand.

That’s left Blount marginalized despite his 1,000-yard season two years ago. He had a season-high eight carries Thursday night at Minnesota, but it took a blowout victory for that to happen. …

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Bowers increasing his workload

As excited as the Bucs were to get defensive end Da'Quan Bowers back for Thursday's game, they were cautious in how much they used the second-year player, as he was making his season debut after coming off surgery to repair his torn Achilles.

Bowers got about 20 snaps, mostly one-and-off, on third downs, giving Tampa Bay a boost on the pass rush.

But since Bowers has felt really good since, he got an expanded workload in today's practice, getting reps on first and second down, including some three-play sequences.

"I'm definitely working my way back in," Bowers said. "Now it's more of a wind thing, getting back in shape, getting my wind back. I don't mind doing first and second down, I'm not only a pass-rush guy. Me and coach have been talking about it, and taking step towards that progress. Hopefully by Sunday I can get on first and second down situations."

Coach Greg Schiano said Thursday's game was a "really good start" for Bowers, pointing out they wanted to bring him back slowly since he came off the physically unable to perform list two weeks ago. …

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Bucs preparing to play without injured Wright, won't comment on suspension

Eric Wright spent practice Monday pedaling a stationary bicycle, watching his teammates’ preparations for their upcoming game against the Oakland Raiders. Likewise, the Bucs weren’t in a position to move forward with their soon-to-be suspended cornerback.

Coach Greg Schiano opened his press conference by saying league rules prohibit the team from commenting on a story that Wright is facing a four-game suspension for using Adderall.

In fact, Schiano said Wright was unable to practice due to an Achilles injury he suffered in Thursday night’s 36-17 win at Minnesota Thursday.

Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Wright is facing a four-game suspension after testing positive for Adderall, a stumulant that is considered a performance enhancing drug unless prescribed by a physician.

Wright would be the second Bucs cornerback to be suspended for Adderall. Aqib Talib is scheduled to return from his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on PED's Nov. 5. Since neither the league nor the Bucs will comment on the case, it's likely that it is being appealed by Wright. …

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Parrish on struggling punt return game: "I know the big one is going to come"

The Bucs brought in veteran return man Roscoe Parrish a month ago to do one thing – jump-start the team’s struggling punt return game. The position had been a revolving door since the season opened, with Sammie Stroughter’s injury and WR Jordan Shipley getting cut after a key fumble in Week 3.

But Parrish, 30, hasn’t given the Bucs much of a boost, averaging just 6.1 yards on 12 returns over four games, with the longest 13 yards. He also muffed a punt against the Vikings Thursday, though he recovered it in the pile-up. With Tampa Bay still last in the league with a 5.5 yards per punt return average, personnel changes aren’t out of the question, especially with that being Parrish's primary role. But Parrish says he doesn’t want to press.

“You can’t get frustrated, you have to make smart decisions, be patient, because one return can change everything,” Parrish said. “It’s a long season, and I understand that being a veteran returner. That’s the best way I can put it right now.” …

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Report: CB Eric Wright to be suspended for use of Adderall

Another Bucs starting cornerback is staring at a 4-game suspension.

Eric Wright is facing a 'four-game ban for Adderall,'' according to a report Sunday by Fox NFL insider Jay Glazer.

Cornerback Aqib Talib has one game remaining on his four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performing enhancing drugs. Talib said just prior to training camp, he took one pill of Adderall without a prescription. Adderall is considered a stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD.

"With Bucs starting Cb Aqib Talib suspended 4 games for Adderall, their other starting CB Eric Wright also facing a 4 game ban for Adderall,'' Glazer tweeted Sunday.

"The whole Adderall thing is tricky (because) several players legitimately need such meds but league has become very strict who takes it,'' Glazer tweeted.

Glazer reported the suspension on FOX NFL Sunday.

Wright, one of the Bucs' highly touted free agents who signed a five-year, $38-million contract in March, has started all seven games for the Bucs this season and has 31 tackes, an interception and eight passes defensed. …

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Poll: What was your favorite moment?

Bucs-Vikings
What was your favorite moment in the Bucs' 36-17 win?
Doug Martin's 64-yard touchdown reception
Doug Martin's 41-yard run
Vincent Jackson's leaping 26-yard reception
Mike Williams winning a jump ball for 3-yard touchdown catch
Donald Penn's fight with Jared Allen
Other
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Hey, Mike Williams: Pay attention!

So, you think you had fun watching Bucs running back Doug Martin zig and zag against the Vikings?

Well, receiver Mike Williams had a better seat than most. And he thoroughly enjoyed the view from where he watched Martin’s 64-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter – just across the field from the play.

“On that screen, I was on the other side, and when he caught it, it was like magic happening right in front of my eyes,” Williams said. “I was watching the whole time.”

There was just one problem: Williams was actually in the game and apparently didn’t finish running his route. Receivers coach P.J. Fleck, ever the perfectionist, didn’t let it slide.

“I got in trouble with Coach Fleck because I was just watching the play,” Williams said sheepishly.

In this case, considering Martin’s electric performance, it’s hard to blame the guy.

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Defensive end Michael Bennett's injury not serious

The only thing that could have marred the Bucs rousing victory Thursday night over the Vikings is a substantial injury.

And it appears the Bucs dodged a bullet on that front. Defensive end Michael Bennett, who went down late in the game with an ankle injury that looked serious, isn't seriously hurt after all.

Coach Greg Schiano said today that Bennett's injury wasn't a major concern. Then Bennett himself said he was not planning on missing any action. Bennett catches a break here, too: The Bucs have another nine days before their next game, on Nov. 4 at Oakland.

Bennett, the starting left defensive end, had a superb performance. He finished with five tackles, a sack, two tackles for losses and a forced fumble.

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Hoping for 'shutout' against Jared Allen, Donald Penn says Allen got 'lucky'

MINNEAPOLIS -- Donald Penn loves the spotlight. He wants to be recognized among the best, and it’s hard to do that when no one’s watching.

Thursday night, everyone was.

And Penn wanted to live up to the moment against one of the game’s best pass rushers, the Vikings’ Jared Allen.

“I try to measure myself in these games,” Penn said. “A lot of people forget about me being in little ol’ Tampa. They don’t think of me as one of the premier tackles, but when I have a game like this, on national TV, that’s when you have to come out and show it.”

The matchup between Penn and the All-Pro Allen lived up to expectations, and Penn probably got the better of Allen. Things came to a head in the third quarter when the two had a dust-up after a play that ended with fists being thrown.

With the crowd erupting after the play – on which both players were flagged for personal fouls – Allen sacked quarterback Josh Freeman on the very next play. But Penn said there were mitigating circumstances. …

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