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Prognosis better for King, Duncan, White

As the weather got cooler and wetter as if in anticipation of Sunday's wild-card playoff game at Philadelphia, the Bucs' injury concerns lessened Thursday with the return of several key players to practice for non-contact drills.

Quarterback Shaun King, who aggravated a groin injury during Wednesday's drills, was back in a jersey and sweat pants.

"It felt fine," said King, bothered by the same injury a month ago in the Bucs' win over Buffalo. "(Wednesday) it tightened up a little bit, but I'm confident."

King was joined at practice by linebacker Jamie Duncan (knee) and defensive end Steve White (hip pointer), who sat out Wednesday but seemed to be in good position to play.

"Jamie did pretty well, and Steve White did okay and looks like he'll be fine," coach Tony Dungy said. "Shaun was fine today, and if Al (Singleton, linebacker, knee sprain) is able to go full speed, I think we'll be okay."

Linebacker Jeff Gooch (abdominal strain) and defensive lineman Marcus Jones (sprained foot) did not practice. Dungy said Gooch had improved little and Jones was walking but not close to practicing.

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said the injuries will test the defense's depth but he won't change his game plan.

"We can't change our defense just because of who's playing," he said.

If Derrick Brooks' shoulder injury keeps him out Sunday, Kiffin said, Duncan will call the defensive plays on the field, with Shelton Quarles doing so in nickel packages.

ALL HEART: Running back Warrick Dunn is among 15 finalists for the NFL.com All-Heart Performance of the Year award, decided by an online vote that ends Thursday.

Dunn won the weekly award for his Dec. 18 performance against St. Louis. He rushed for 145 yards and scored three touchdowns, including the winner with 48 seconds left.

The award is part of an NFL program highlighting the dangers of high cholesterol and heart disease. The winner will be announced Jan. 24.

INJURY REPORT: Brooks, Duncan, Jones, Singleton, White, Pete Pierson (back), Todd Washington (hamstring) and Floyd Young (shoulder) are probable.

SIMMER DOWN NOW!: A TV campaign is urging Philadelphia's notoriously boorish fans to be nice. Two commercials feature athletes asking fans to "enjoy the game, don't destroy it" have aired for the past week.

"The athletes wanted to reach out to the fans directly," said Meryl Levitz, president of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp. The commercials feature the Eagles' Brian Dawkins and Charles Johnson, the Flyers' Dan McGillis and Andy Delmore, and 76ers owner Pat Croce.

STILL A TOUGH TOWN: Philly.com, a Web site run by Philadelphia media, is running an unscientific poll. The question: Who do you think will win the game? With more than 70,000 votes cast, more than 90 percent had picked the Bucs.

SLOSH ALERT: The time _ 4:15 p.m. on New Year's Eve _ and nature of the game have team and Philadelphia city officials concerned about excessive drinking at Veterans Stadium.

Eagles security chief Anthony "Butch" Buchanico Jr. said at least 200 police officers, uniformed and undercover, will be in and around the stadium. Judge Seamus McCaffery will hold court as usual at the stadium to process people arrested during the game.

"I know he's polishing up his gavel," Buchanico said.

_ GREG AUMAN, MIKE STEPHENSON,

TIMES WIRES

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