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Tampa Bay Buccaneers optimistic after key injured players practice

TAMPA — The Bucs were encouraged by the progress of several key injured players during a Christmas Day workout at One Buc Place.

Though listed as questionable for Sunday's game at New Orleans, WRs Michael Clayton (knee) and Antonio Bryant (groin), S Tanard Jackson (knee), C Jeff Faine (elbow) and RB Derrick Ward (knee) all participated in practice.

Ward was a new addition to the injury report.

"We're being very cautious with him," coach Raheem Morris said. "His knee's a little sore, so … he was limited (Friday)."

Faine would be a key loss because the dropoff after him is quite steep. Jonathan Compas took snaps at center this week in Faine's place.

"We have a couple options there," Morris said of the position. "We have (Jeremy) Zuttah who can play some center. You have Compas who can play some center, and we have a kid named Shawn Murphy that plays in the interior spots. … So, we have options there. But Compas had most of the reps when Faine was out, so I guess that'll be your most (likely) option."

The best news was Bryant participated fully in practice and looks good for the game.

Good sign: The Bucs were happy to see rookie QB Josh Freeman handle one of the league's more raucous environments at Qwest Field in Seattle last week. Now, they'll find out whether that's an indication he will be able to focus in the madness of the Louisiana Superdome against the 13-1 Saints.

"Everything for Josh right now is a building block," Morris said. "We're just fired up for him to have the opportunity."

Holiday schedule: The Bucs had an abbreviated workday Friday, with players arriving for meetings around noon rather than early as usual. Practice ended at 5 p.m.

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

Tampa Bay Buccaneers optimistic after key injured players practice 12/25/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 26, 2009 12:21am]

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