TAMPA — It seems like a run-of-the-mill achievement, making it through all 16 games of a single NFL season.
And for some players, it is.
But when you're Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, and the lofty hopes with which you entered the league have been short-circuited by consecutive season-ending injuries, you gain a new appreciation for staying on the field.
When McCoy takes the field Sunday against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, it will mark the first time in his three seasons he will have played every game. And it means quite a bit to the 2010 No. 3 overall draft pick.
"I just want to get through this game, finish the game and see that clock tick down to zero," McCoy said Wednesday. "Then I can say, 'Hey, I played a full season, guys. I made it.'
"I (had) always finished the season. For it to happen two years in a row, it's like now it's foreign to me to finish a season. It used to not be."
Once this game is over, McCoy's health will serve him well in the offseason, too. Lost in the conversation the past two seasons was the impact of his two torn biceps, one each season, on his development. The rehabilitation from the injuries affected his ability to improve.
"I haven't been able to focus on football as much," McCoy said. "Now I can actually get out there and work on it. The things I see on film, I can actually work on it instead of waiting until I get healthy. I'll have that much more time in the offseason to get better."
Now that McCoy is poised to play his first full season, here's a question: How has it gone? McCoy's five sacks, 15 quarterback hits and general disruption of offenses earned him a berth in the Pro Bowl on Wednesday.
Has the season been everything others expected? Maybe, maybe not.
But McCoy is encouraged by his production even if the numbers aren't as flashy as those of former Buc Warren Sapp, against whom McCoy often is measured.
"People need to stop expecting me to be No. 99," McCoy said. "The guy revolutionized the position. When you bring people in, you have to stop expecting people to be (Michael) Jordan. As good as Kobe (Bryant) is, he's still not Jordan.
"Once people realize that I'm not (Sapp) and that he revolutionized the position and that I can only be me, then I think people will begin to understand that I do a lot more than people give me credit for. It's just that people keep expecting me to be No. 99. He's gone."
REUNION COMING? Giants TE Martellus Bennett has floated the prospect of playing alongside his brother, Bucs DE Michael Bennett, in 2013. Both can become free agents after this season.
"You never know what is going to happen," Bennett told the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger. "I would love to stay here (with the Giants), maybe even get (Michael) to come out here. But if not, we're both looking to play together at least for a couple years in the NFL like we did in college (at Texas A&M). I'll try to get him to come here first."
Michael has said he'd like to remain with the Bucs. But the team's financial investments in defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers don't guarantee it.
BARBER TALK: Neither side has had so much as a conversation about the future of S Ronde Barber. But coach Greg Schiano said the door is open for Barber's return in 2013 and a 17th season.
"That's up to him," Schiano said.
INJURY REPORT: CB E.J. Biggers (hip), TE Nate Byham (illness), TE Dallas Clark (illness), LT Donald Penn (not injury related) and G Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) sat out practice. G Roger Allen (groin) was limited.