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Off with their heads

Is that Sam Wyche standing in line on the coaches' chopping block in this week's Sports Illustrated?

In an NFL midseason report, Detroit's Wayne Fontes is listed as "endangered a coach as can be found roaming an NFL sideline."

According to SI, next in line are the Houston Oilers' Jack Pardee, the Denver Broncos' Wade Phillips and Wyche.

Bad rating

The defense is dropping like a stone in the NFL rankings. At one point, Tampa Bay boasted the league's sixth-best defense. But with injuries to linebacker Hardy Nickerson and Santana Dotson, it descended to 14th overall entering last Sunday's game against the 49ers.

After yielding 451 yards to San Francisco, the Bucs plummeted to 23rd overall.

"The last two weeks, there's no excuses," defensive coordinator Floyd Peters said. "They know they've got to play much better. I'm counting on them to bounce back."

News of the day

The Bucs practiced from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, reversing their schedule to avoid the threat of afternoon rain that abbreviated workouts Wednesday.

Several fights broke out. "We had a couple of good training camp kind of fights where guys were just up in the bit and practicing hard," Wyche said. "We got some good, aggressive play."

Ticket update

About 35,000 tickets have been sold for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings and a crowd of close to 45,000 is expected. The hottest ticket at Tampa Stadium is next week's game against the Chicago Bears. About 55,000 have been sold for the Nov.

6 game.

The wounded

DE Keith Powe (knee) is out for Sunday's game. LB Jeff Brady (elbow), S Thomas Everett (shoulder/foot) and T Tim Irwin (elbow/back) are questionable. Everett did not practice Thursday, but is expected to play against the Vikings.

"The only question mark right now would be Thomas Everett, and we think he'll be all right," Wyche said. "Tim Irwin came back today, and said he feels great."

_ RICK STROUD

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