TAMPA — As the NFC South-leading Falcons battled the Ravens on Thursday night, many Bucs players were glued to their televisions as much or more than any fan.
That's because they had a vested interest in the game's outcome, with the Bucs chasing the Falcons in the standings.
There will be plenty of scoreboard watching in the weeks to come, but there's a balancing act between wandering eyes and the business at hand, players say.
"We're rooting for our best interest, of course," CB Ronde Barber said. "But it's too early. Too many things can play out still. There's half the season left to go. To start looking at it now would kind of be pointless without trying to predict the future, which nobody can do."
The Falcons won on a Matt Ryan-to-Roddy White touchdown in the final minute, giving the Falcons a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay with the Bucs looking to close that gap on Sunday against the Panthers.
As players try to focus on each given week, the subject of the postseason naturally will come up. The key, they say, is not to let it preoccupy their thinking.
"It's only human nature to kind of think about those things," RB Cadillac Williams said.
"But at the same time, you have to keep things in perspective and look at the bigger picture."
OL SHUFFLING: A day after suggesting it might not be a foregone conclusion that Jeff Faine resumed his role as starting center, coach Raheem Morris told Faine on Friday to expect to retake his spot in the starting lineup after missing a month with a quadriceps injury.
"I talked to Coach and he said it's all a go," Faine said. "He basically said, 'You're my starting center.' "
Faine was being monitored by coaches to see whether his injury would cause soreness now that he has resumed practice. They also wanted to check his conditioning level after his long absence. Morris seemed satisfied.
"He practiced this week, and he went through it," Morris said. "The whole thing I was worried about was his conditioning and where he was going to be. He did a nice job this week. He's locked in."
As for Jeremy Zuttah, who spent four weeks filling in at center for Faine, he hasn't been assured of a return to left guard. That's because rookie Ted Larsen, a waiver pickup from the Patriots, has been excelling there.
"Larsen played well," Morris said. "We rotated (at that position) before, even before Zuttah went to center. So, maybe we can play both. But right now, Larsen really played well, and we have a tough time just taking him out completely. We'll have to either mix those guys in or just play Larsen the whole time."
RT Jeremy Trueblood (knee) will return to the starting lineup as well, sending James Lee back to the bench.