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Bucs even thinner at receiver

Bucs wide receiver Ike Hilliard takes a hard hit from Leroy Hill in the second quarter. Hilliard was knocked out on the play and spent the night in the hospital for observation.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Bucs wide receiver Ike Hilliard takes a hard hit from Leroy Hill in the second quarter. Hilliard was knocked out on the play and spent the night in the hospital for observation.

TAMPA — The casualties are mounting at a position where the Bucs had little depth anyway.

The receiving unit has been besieged by injuries, with veteran Ike Hilliard's concussion that required hospitalization the latest blow.

Hilliard was released from the hospital early Monday and, coach Jon Gruden said, was to be cleared of any serious ramifications after a helmet-to-helmet blow from Seahawks LB Leroy Hill. Whether Hilliard plays next week at Dallas is another matter.

"He was obviously checked out thoroughly (Sunday) night and all indications were good, but we'll see how he feels here in the coming days," Gruden said Monday. "Right now, I would say (he is) in question."

Already, the Bucs are missing Joey Galloway (foot) and Maurice Stovall (hamstring), and Gruden made no guarantees either will play against the Cowboys. Tampa Bay promoted journeyman Brian Clark, a Tampa native, from the practice squad Saturday. He was immediately pressed into service against the Seahawks, catching one pass for 12 yards.

Frustration is mounting as Galloway's absence lingers. Though signs pointed to Galloway returning against the Seahawks, Gruden indicated he and his staff elected not to play him because they remain unconvinced he is ready. Galloway was injured Sept. 14.

"You've got to be able to play," Gruden said. "You've got to be able to run all the routes. You've got to have the stamina to play. We've got to see that, hear that and watch that on the practice field Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. If that (is) the case, you will see him against Dallas."

When Galloway returns, there's no guarantee he'll step right into a prominent role. Gruden is encouraged by Antonio Bryant's performance at Galloway's split end position and vowed not to move Bryant for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, Stovall seemed hopeful he will return this week.

"This is a business where you can't be down for long," he said. "Someone is always there to get the job done. I want to get back for myself, one, and for my team."

Ready for Romo: The Bucs don't know whether they'll face injured Cowboys QB Tony Romo, but they intend to be ready. While the defense will prepare for backup and former Buc Brad Johnson as well, Romo will get the bulk of the attention.

"We'll assume (Romo) will play," Gruden said. "We'll also take a look at obviously Brad Johnson. It will be great to see Brad again. … They've got a loaded roster and a great, talented staff, and we'll do the best we can."

Not about numbers: The Bucs' total of 11 sacks (21st in the league) isn't that impressive. But Gruden cautioned against looking solely at stats. As evidenced Sunday night, a good pass rush doesn't always culminate with a sack.

"The pass rush can be defined in terms of sacks or pressure and hits on the quarterback also," Gruden said. "If you can make the quarterback veer right or left, if you can disrupt his timing, his vision and his rhythm, that's a good pass rush."

The Bucs had no sacks on Seattle's Seneca Wallace. But Wallace never could relax in the pocket because of Tampa Bay's relentless pressure, particularly from DE Gaines Adams. Wallace finished 12-of-23 for 73 yards and committed two turnovers (one fumble, one interception).

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Bucs even thinner at receiver 10/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:47pm]
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