TAMPA — CB Aqib Talib, who missed Sunday's game at Jacksonville with a hamstring strain, is scheduled to return Saturday against the Cowboys and take on the Bucs' biggest defensive assignment.
Coach Raheem Morris said the plan is to have Talib cover WR Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' 2010 first-round pick who is tied for fourth in the NFC with eight receiving touchdowns.
Talib didn't practice Thursday, but that decision was made out of an abundance of caution.
"He had two hard days of work (Tuesday and Wednesday)," Morris said. "We got him going and got him running. We really didn't want to push the envelope too much. … He'll be able to go against a premier receiver in this league, or one (who is) about to become one, if he's not already known as one."
The matchup has Talib excited: "I'm ready. I'm feeling good. I'm always looking forward to covering the other team's best receiver."
Though Morris didn't specify, his statements suggest Talib will follow Bryant all game, rather than having the cornerbacks switch based on where the Cowboys' receivers line up.
In other injury news, Morris said WR Arrelious Benn is cleared after his concussion, but Benn did not practice and the team would not commit to him playing Saturday. DT Brian Price (sore ankles) returned to practice and could play.
Job rumors? Morris remained undeterred by continued speculation about his future.
ESPN NFL insider John Clayton indicated during a televised discussion Wednesday that Morris might have been fired Monday if the Bucs had a candidate for interim head coach. The Bucs blew a 14-point lead Sunday and lost 41-14 to the Jaguars.
"I said there was a lot of rumbling that he was going to get fired," Clayton said Thursday. "But there is probably no way he can, because as a defensive play-caller, who is going to call the plays?"
"I know there's a cloud outside the organization," Morris said. "But when you come into this building, there's a bunch of rays of sunshine. You see these guys and how they react to each other and how they play. You guys make it gloomy and doomy for us, but we do our best to keep rain away."
The Bucs have lost seven straight, falling to 4-9. Before the losing streak, Morris and the Bucs had won 14 of 22, including a 10-6 season in 2010.
The third-year coach also defended his staff, which also has come under fire.
"It's pretty much the same staff," he said. "We went out there and won 10 games. Everybody loved us. This year, we came out and we're not having the same success, we're not as good. So obviously it starts with the coaches, it goes to players and then it goes to management. That's how it works in this business. … For those who are given a lot, a lot is expected. It's just the nature of the beast we live in."