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Healthy Galloway gets fewer chances with Buccaneers

Joey Galloway has four catches since returning from an injury.

Joey Galloway has four catches since returning from an injury.

TAMPA

Injuries are no longer keeping Joey Galloway off the field. Jon Gruden is.

More specifically, the Bucs coach has hitched his passing game to Antonio Bryant, who moved to Galloway's split end spot and leads the team with 45 catches for 566 yards and two touchdowns.

In his past three games, Bryant has 21 catches for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

Galloway, who turns 37 next week, has been moved to flanker. But he is having trouble breaking into the lineup there because of the improved play of Michael Clayton, the Bucs' third-leading receiver and a dynamic run blocker.

So what becomes of Galloway, who missed five games with a right foot sprain? Since returning, he has four catches for 50 yards.

"Now it's up to us as a staff to figure out how to re-emerge him in our attack," Gruden said. "At the same time, it's complicated with the fact that Antonio is playing great football for us and Joey has been gone awhile. He's in great shape. But getting back in the huddle, hearing the play, handling the audibles, handling the multiple things that happen in the course of the game — those are the things he's getting back into."

In some ways, Bryant and Clayton are better suited for Gruden's version of the West Coast offense. Galloway, listed at 5 feet 11, 197 pounds, is primarily a vertical threat. Bryant, at 6-1, 205, is a physical player who can run slants and catch passes between the numbers while absorbing punishment.

Meanwhile, Galloway has an adjustment to make.

"You're playing a different position entirely," Gruden said. "There's been times in the past that we've moved him around. He's been over there anyhow. But the other guy is playing really well, too. I don't want to underestimate what Clayton has done. But we feel good about having Joey back to health, and we had him some good looks the last (game)."

Ironically, what has been missing in the Bucs' passing game are more shots downfield. Galloway can still provide that. And to his credit, he has been the ultimate professional, handling the situation without complaint and supporting his teammates.

NOT SPECIAL: Nine games into the season, the Vikings already have moved into the NFL record book.

When the Packers' Will Blackmon returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter last week, it marked the sixth touchdown yielded by their special teams. The 1980 Lions also allowed six, the most since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

Minnesota has allowed four punt returns for touchdowns, two each by Blackmon and the Saints' Reggie Bush. That ties the record set by the 1959 Giants and 1992 Falcons.

Vikings coach Brad Childress said they've tried everything from changing personnel to more practice time. But on many occasions, it's just one of 11 guys not doing his job.

"All it takes is a lapse of a play for one to come back on a talented returner. We've had a few lapses," Childress said.

Remarkably, the Vikings have won both of the games in which they allowed multiple returns for touchdowns.

Healthy Galloway gets fewer chances with Buccaneers 11/15/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 16, 2008 10:50am]
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