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Back to NFL business for Dungy

By ROGER MILLS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 9, 2002

TAMPA -- A whirlwind final week of the season for Bucs coach Tony Dungy doesn't get easier as he prepares his team for an opening-round playoff date Saturday against the Eagles.

But after his mother, Cleomae, died Thursday, and the Bucs lost to the Eagles on Sunday, Dungy insisted he is focused on the task at hand.

"Except for my mom's situation, it's pretty much been just zeroing in on trying to get ready to play ... that part really never changes," Dungy said Tuesday, a day after returning from his mother's funeral in Jackson, Mich. "(As for) traveling, and going back and forth, fortunately I have siblings and my dad who were able to handle most of the funeral arrangements and that kind of thing.

"It was difficult emotionally but fortunately for me, I know my mom's situation, what her faith was in Christ and I have that same faith that she's doing fine. So, it's not the type of thing where my heart is weighed down or anything. That's probably the biggest blessing that we have.

"It's going to be difficult, this would be the first time going into the playoffs where she's not coming to the game. So that will be something I will think about. But for the most part, it's been as good as it can be."

MAKING THEIR CLAIM: It seems a bit farfetched but the performances of some reserves Sunday could earn them consideration for playing time Saturday.

"It was good to see some of our guys, especially on offense, come through and play well," Dungy said. "We had a feeling that some of those guys would do that. ... We've seen (receiver Milton Wynn) in practice and he's made catches like that in practice before.

"Aaron Stecker, it seems like when he gets a chance to do something for us, he does. It was good for those guys to get some game experience."

Wynn, a rookie from Kansas State, was inactive for the first 15 games and turned his first career reception into a 36-yard gain. He finished with four catches for 69 yards.

Could Wynn have moved up the depth chart?

"Sure, you're always looking for that," Dungy said. "I think in 1997 (cornerback) Ronde (Barber) was inactive all year, maybe played just one (game), but was practicing well and by the end of the year we felt it was time to go. He came in up in Green Bay (playoff game) and played well for us (two tackles and a pass defensed). So, it's not only what you see in the game, but what you see in practice."

FRIENDLY GESTURE: Dungy and Eagles coach Andy Reid have been friends for a long time. In fact, Reid has extended a gesture of sympathy on the passing of Dungy's mother.

"I've known Andy quite a while and we have been in the NFC Central for a long time when he was (an offensive assistant) with Green Bay," Dungy said. "He called a couple times about my mom and we talked mostly about that. It's something you really appreciate."

Of course, with a playoff game looming, the pleasantries likely will be on hold until after the game.

"I think we probably spoke enough the last four or five days," Dungy said.

INJURY UPDATE: Kicker Martin Gramatica will be back Saturday, apparently fully recovered from his right hamstring strain. Dungy said Gramatica could have kicked on Sunday but was held out.

Defensive end Marcus Jones (right shoulder sprain) and running back Rabih Abdullah (foot sprain) are questionable. They are likely to practice today.

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