TAMPA — The offseason decision to bring RB Warrick Dunn back to his NFL roots in Tampa Bay has proven to be one of the Bucs' savvier ones.
But opting to use Dunn against the Cowboys on Sunday despite a pinched nerve in his upper back probably won't qualify as a bright move, something even coach Jon Gruden admits.
"We probably shouldn't have allowed him to play," Gruden said Wednesday. "We choose not to use him much. But he is such a warrior. He has played this game for so long. But I agree. He wasn't himself on Sunday in Dallas. That's a big part of our offense."
The question now facing the team is whether Dunn will play Sunday at Kansas City. He was unable to practice Wednesday and appears to still be having problems. On Sunday, he said they included sharp pain shooting down his back and legs, which limited him to one rush and two receptions against Dallas for a total of 8 yards.
With Earnest Graham still taking a few snaps at fullback, where B.J. Askew remains sidelined with a hamstring tear, Dunn's health left the offense limited, to an extent.
"He's a big part of (the offense), especially with our fullback situation," Gruden said of Dunn.
If Dunn is sidelined against Kansas City, look for Michael Bennett to finally have a role. Gruden said Bennett's inactive status at Dallas was the result of the team having three running backs active: Dunn, Graham and return man Clifton Smith.
ROAD WOES: The Bucs are 4-0 at Raymond James Stadium but 1-3 on the road, losing three close games. Asked the difference between performances at home and away, Gruden said, "about 11 points," a reference to the combined margin of defeat in the three contests.
"They've been close games. It's not like we haven't played good football," Gruden said. "We've had chances to win all three of the games."
TEST DRIVE: Gruden expects today is when the team will test RB Cadillac Williams with limited contact in practice to see where he is physically.
Williams, who is on the physically unable to perform list because of the right knee he injured last season, began practicing last week. He is one week into a three-week evaluation period, after which the Bucs must activate him or place him on injured reserve.
"We'll try to turn him loose," Gruden said. "We'll try to get a little bit more amps out of him and see how he feels, see how he performs."
TOUGH ASSIGNMENT: Chiefs second-year QB Tyler Thigpen starts against Tampa Bay on Sunday, and who better to prepare him for the defense he will face than a former Tampa Bay assistant? Kansas City coach Herman Edwards was assistant head coach and defensive backs coach under then-coach Tony Dungy from 1996-2000, and he can't overstate the challenge Thigpen faces.
"He played well up there in New York," Edwards said of Thigpen, who was 25-of-36 for 280 yards and two TDs in a loss to the Jets on Sunday.
"The thing he's got to understand is the speed he's getting ready to play against with the Bucs defense and how fast they get to the ball. I think our whole team is going to have to understand how fast these guys play on defense."