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Dunn and Alstott to continue sharing

The Bucs remain committed to sharing the running duties between Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott, no matter who is on a roll.

They point to the productivity of both players in Sunday's 20-17 win against the Lions as Exhibit A.

Dunn, almost recovered from a hamstring strain and still slowed by a sprained big toe, rushed for 51 yards on 17 carries (3-yard average) but made up for it by catching five passes for 60 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown pass from Brad Johnson.

Alstott, who has been carrying the ball effectively the past few weeks, had 48 yards on eight carries (6-yard average).

What seemed strange was that after Dunn gained 27 yards in the first quarter, Alstott seemed to be heading for a big day by gaining 35 yards on four carries.

In the second half, the Bucs could not get Alstott rolling.

"I thought we mixed things well and got both guys the ball a lot, and were able to stay on the field," coach Tony Dungy said. "We had the ball 18 minutes and were kind of in the flow. In the second half we had a couple of good runs, but on third down we weren't able to convert. We missed a couple of third and 4s and third and 2s and therefore neither guy got the ball enough.

"I think it's a matter of having the ball and doing the job on third down, and that'll allow us to get both of those guys running and in the flow of the game."

In the past two games, both Dunn and Alstott have had a touchdown and have made huge catches on third down.

EXPECTED BACK: Defensive tackle Warren Sapp's left knee bruise doesn't appear to be serious and Dungy said, "He's going to be fine." The news also is good for linemate Anthony McFarland, who missed the past two games with a right knee sprain but should return to practice Wednesday. "He's very close," Dungy said.

The same is true of receiver Jacquez Green, who missed the past two games with a left groin pull. Green ran last week and also before Sunday's game, and will practice Wednesday.

Backup middle linebacker Nate Webster, who appeared in severe discomfort after Sunday's game, has bruised ribs and is uncertain for practice this week.

HE TAKES A LICKING: But receiver Keyshawn Johnson keeps on ticking. Twice hammered by the Detroit secondary, Johnson got back up to play the next snap. Dungy said Johnson's willingness to make catches in traffic and rebound from heavy blows has not been overlooked by the coaching staff.

"One thing that you kind of forget when you haven't been around guys that have caught that many balls is how tough you have to be," Dungy said. "I was with Cris Carter and he used to catch 100 a year, especially inside where those guys catch them and get hit a lot.

"It takes a lot to come back out to practice and keep grooved. That's one of the things I don't think you can underestimate about Keyshawn, is his toughness and his ability to play week in and week out. He does take some hits."

On the Bucs' second play from scrimmage, Johnson caught a screen pass seconds before being slammed by cornerback Todd Lyght for a 2-yard loss. He was hit again late in the third quarter by safety Ron Rice.

"They aren't hits I would want to take," Dungy said.

"That's his game and it's a big part of it. He doesn't have a fear of that."

WHY THE FLAG?: Defensive end Marcus Jones was penalized for unnecessary roughness in Detroit's momentum-swinging third-quarter drive. The 13-yard penalty gave the Lions a first down at the Tampa Bay 13. Detroit scored on a 1-yard Cory Schlesinger run seven plays later.

The penalty bothered members of the Bucs coaching staff, who said Jones legally shoved Batch while he was inbounds.

"You would have to ask the officials (what they saw)," Dungy said. "We looked at the tape long and hard and couldn't see anything. So I'm sure there was something because the guys called it. What that was, I'm not sure.

"But we had a lot of trained eyes look long and hard with a microscope and we didn't see anything."

_ ROGER MILLS

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