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Bucs' Hilliard shrugs off big hit: 'I've had worse'

TAMPA — Ike Hilliard snores, and now everyone knows it.

Upon racing onto the field to treat the Bucs receiver who was knocked unconscious against the Seahawks on Sunday, team trainer Todd Toriscelli found Hilliard was, well, asleep.

"Todd said when he walked out there I was actually snoring," Hilliard said.

After a violent helmet-to-helmet blow from LB Leroy Hill, Hilliard lay motionless. He suffered a concussion and was briefly hospitalized for observation.

Whether Hilliard plays on Sunday at Dallas will depend on whether the symptoms — primarily lingering headaches — go away. Hilliard, always the tough guy, couldn't care less. He stressed Wednesday that the restrictions are not self-imposed but mandated by the training staff. Hilliard said he has absorbed harder hits.

"I've had worse than that," he said. "I had a hit that put me in (intensive care) for two days. In 2000 in New York. … A safety from Detroit hit me so hard I was spitting up blood and had a hole in my lung about the size of a half dollar. That's probably the worst that I've taken."

Given what he's overcome, Hilliard wasn't going to let this injury take him out. Notice that he refused to be carted off the field. Once regaining consciousness, he rose to his feet and rode to the locker room in the front seat of the cart.

"My mom told me a long time ago — God bless her; I miss her — that if you choose to play this game, never let anybody carry you off the field," Hilliard, 32, said. "I saw those seven guys standing over me and I said my piece."

Hill's helmet-to-helmet contact could potentially draw a fine from the NFL, but Hilliard didn't take issue with it.

"Being a part of the fraternity, we all want to take care of each other in our own right," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's not two-hand touch. I don't think any defensive player in this locker room would have turned down that hit. I'd tell them to cap off, too. Nice collision. A good NFL hit."

JACKSON'S TOUGH, TOO: Return man Dexter Jackson, under scrutiny after another lackluster performance Sunday, took issue with the perception that he has shied away from contact.

"It's not the case at all," the rookie said. "I take hits. I'm not going to take hits that are not necessary. I see a lot of guys who are returning run out of bounds when guys are coming. Look at Reggie Bush (of the Saints). It's (about) longevity in football. I just try to play hard."

Meanwhile, coach Jon Gruden said he continues to evaluate the return game and is considering several other options to return kicks and/or punts. He didn't disclose names.

Gruden showed support for Jackson.

"I'll make myself perfectly clear," Gruden said. "We are not giving up on him. But we will evaluate who's healthy and able to give us the upgrade we're looking for."

INJURIES GALORE: In addition to Hilliard, WR Maurice Stovall was unable to practice. FB B.J. Askew (hamstring) was limited at practice, and Gruden did not express optimism about a return this week. WR Joey Galloway was limited at practice, and Gruden continues to show only guarded optimism about his prospects for playing. LG Arron Sears was listed on the injury report with a previously undisclosed back injury.

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

Bucs' Hilliard shrugs off big hit: 'I've had worse' 10/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 23, 2008 6:21pm]

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