With defensive tackle Anthony McFarland three to four weeks away from returning to action, second-year player Chartric Darby will get the bulk of the snaps. Darby started against the Vikings on Nov. 3 and said he was encouraged by his play.
"When I looked at the film, I saw a player who's trying his best to help the team out," Darby said. "Now as for Booger's shoes, those are big shoes to fill. But (defensive line) coach (Rod) Marinelli doesn't coach backups, he coaches starters and so I have to step up."
Darby, who will split time with Buck Gurley and Ellis Wyms, said he plans to take advantage of his opportunity, considering he will be back on the bench when McFarland returns from his forearm injury.
"Yes, that's hard," Darby said, "but you have to know your role on this team. I can't lie, every one of us wants to be able to play, but whatever it takes I'm going to do and feel good about it."
SOME INSIDE STUFF
During the bye week, the Bucs were able to get key players like Keenan McCardell, Joe Jurevicius and Jeff Christy back into playing condition. Trainer Todd Toriscelli and his staff played a significant role.
At a time in the season when virtually every player has an ache somewhere, Toriscelli and his staff become increasingly important.
"The guy's been a trainer not only in the league a long time, but he's been a trainer in Florida, where the heat is an issue," coach Jon Gruden said. "He knows these players personally, knows their history. I absolutely rely on Todd tremendously."
WHEN LAST THEY MET
Martin Gramatica hit four field goals, three in the fourth quarter, to give the Bucs a gut-wrenching 12-9 victory Oct. 27 at Carolina. Gramatica, who had struggled, converted a 32-yarder in the first quarter, then from 52 and 53 yards before converting a winning 47-yarder with five seconds left. With Brad Johnson injured, Rob Johnson started and went 22-for-33 for 179 yards with no touchdowns. Third-string quarterback Shaun King came in for one play and found Karl Williams for a 7-yard pass that set up the winning kick.
"Martin's last field goal going through the uprights, that's what sticks with me," safety John Lynch said of the first meeting. "It was a hard-fought game, and those are games you need during the course of a season. Now our mind-set is to get a sweep, and to do that in your division good things happen."
NUMBERS DON'T LIE
0: sacks the Bucs gave up in their last game (38-24 win over Vikings).
15.5: sacks for Simeon Rice in his last 15 games.
100: Gruden's winning percentage as a coach after a bye (4-0).
675: rushing yards for Panthers running back Lamar Smith.
855: rushing yards for the Bucs.
THE LAST WORD
"I really don't believe there is any carryover from week to week. I don't believe in momentum, don't believe in that. Every scheme, every game is different. You face a different identity each week. We're going to work hard to prepare for Carolina and go out there and make plays. But, there is no carryover from week to week."
_ quarterback Brad Johnson on whether the win against the Vikings could provide the Bucs offense with an impetus.
_ Compiled by Roger Mills.