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McFarland lost in second week back

DT, who missed four games with elbow fracture, is out for year with broken foot.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2002


DETROIT -- It's one bad break after another for Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland.

McFarland, who returned last week after missing four games with a fractured right elbow, broke his right foot in the second quarter of Sunday's 23-20 win over Detroit and will miss the remainder of the season.

"I was looking for him on the sideline. Nobody could tell me what was happening and I was getting p-----," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "I finally got to the trainer and just looked him in the eye. He shook his head (no). I knew then. That's my man. Now it's the Sapp, Buck (Gurley) and Chuck (Darby) show permanently inside. You can't get any more new players. You don't get to go on the waiver wire, trade, switch or swap. We have three able bodies that have to get it done."

With McFarland out, the Bucs didn't get much accomplished against the Lions ground game.

Despite playing without injured tailback James Stewart, Detroit rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries. It did it in big chunks, too.

Running back Aveion Cason (10 carries, 62 yards) gashed Tampa Bay for a 40-yard run, Rafael Cooper dashed for 18 and Cory Schlesinger added a 17-yard run.

McFarland's loss was particularly harmful Sunday as the Bucs already were playing without Pro Bowl safety John Lynch.

"We were missing two key members on defense," coach Jon Gruden said. "The middle of our defense has really been the key to our success in my opinion. It all starts with Sapp, McFarland, John Lynch.

"A guy like McFarland is hard to lose. He's a great football player, a guy who's sideline-to-sideline. He's an inspiring player and an inspiring teammate. My heart is sunk pretty deep right now. I hate the thought of not having him around."

The Lions entered ranked 31st in rushing offense, averaging 89 yards. Linebacker Derrick Brooks blamed Sunday's performance on missed assignments and tackles.

"You can't make excuses for that, but when you miss tackles, that's when they make big plays," he said. "The last time we played a game like that was against Minnesota, and we came off the field a little irritated and it helped us the next week. We probably played our best game."

Gruden said he was not surprised by the Lions' resolve.

"They did a nice job coming off the ball and blocking," he said. "We did not have good gap control on a couple of occasions and they made us pay."

Now Sapp will have to fight off blockers inside without McFarland. Since McFarland was injured at Carolina six weeks ago, Sapp has not had a sack.

After the game, Sapp finally spotted McFarland but was speechless.

"I didn't say a word," he said. "I put my head on his head, kissed it and just walked away."

-- Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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