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Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich shines during red zone drills

TAMPA — Byron Leftwich is putting the ball in the end zone and himself in a good position to win the Bucs' quarterback race.

Leftwich threw three touchdown passes during a 12-play, full-speed red zone drill Wednesday. He continued to have the hot hand during seven-on-seven red zone work, tossing two more touchdown passes.

"I just try to go out every day and put the ball in the end zone," Leftwich said. "We did a good job of that (Wednesday). We've been doing a great job of it all camp, really. Guys are getting open. And they're making it easy on me, and I'm putting the ball on them."

Leftwich completed two touchdown passes to TE Jerramy Stevens and one to TE Ryan Purvis. That type of playmaking could enable Leftwich to surge ahead of Luke McCown, who took about the same number of snaps but didn't throw a touchdown pass.

However, nothing will be decided until at least the third preseason game.

Coach Raheem Morris said Leftwich's experience is an advantage. He has played 54 games (46 starts) to McCown's 12 (seven starts).

"(Leftwich has) got some leadership skills," Morris said. "He's done it before. He's won 12 games (in a season) in this league. … We've got to see him do it under our lights, at our stadium, with our coordinator, with this head coach. Then we'll see."

RB Earnest Graham said he has been impressed with Leftwich.

"Byron is an awesome player," Graham said. "I'd never seen him in person until he got here. When I first started to see him play week after week, I was wondering how we were able to get (this) guy, as bad as you need quarterbacks in this league."

CLAYTON HURT: WR Michael Clayton, who left Wednesday morning's practice clutching his left hamstring, watched the afternoon workout but said he won't miss more than a few days.

"I tweaked a hammy," Clayton said. "I couldn't do everything, but we'll find out exactly what's going on with it. Should be a couple of days, and I'll be fine.

TE Kellen Winslow (ankle) and WR Antonio Bryant (knee) returned to the afternoon workout. Bryant didn't wear a helmet but ran individual drills. K Matt Bryant (hamstring) should return today. LB Angelo Crowell (hamstring) could be out until the middle of next week, Morris said.

SWEET CAROLINE: Morris began his team meeting by telling his players the Panthers have been more physical in their games since 2003. Then he showed them video clips as evidence.

The Bucs are 3-9 against the Panthers during that stretch despite winning two NFC South titles.

"For the most part, they've been more physical than us," Morris said. "Even the games we've won, we've come out of those games and felt like we lost. We felt like they outplayed us physically."

Staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich shines during red zone drills 08/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 6:43am]
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