Jurevicius may miss game for personal reasons
By GREG AUMAN, ROGER MILLS, KEVIN KELLY
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003
TAMPA -- Receiver Joe Jurevicius, who missed practice Wednesday to deal with a family matter, returned for Thursday's morning session, only to be excused again for the afternoon session.
Jurevicius, a fifth-year player who has emerged as an important presence in the passing game, could be back today.
The Bucs would not elaborate on the nature of Jurevicius' family matter but the team appears ready to play Sunday's game in Philadelphia without him. If Jurevicius is not available, veteran Karl Williams will take his place.
"Obviously, we're concerned about him," coach Jon Gruden said. "These things put things in perspective. We're preparing as if he won't be here."
As the third receiver, Jurevicius finished the season with 37 catches for 423 yards and four touchdowns. Against the 49ers in the divisional playoffs, Jurevicius had three catches for 48 yards and one score.
Gruden said Jurevicius still is a part of the game plan and didn't rule him out. But he stressed family matters come first.
"Knowing Joe, and you do get to know your guys after a while, if there's any way he can find a way to play, he'll play," Gruden said. "At the same time, you have to pull for your guy and support him."
Williams has taken every snap in Jurevicius' place this week.
OTHER INJURIES: Defensive end Ellis Wyms (right ankle sprain) and defensive tackles Warren Sapp (left shoulder strain) and Chartric Darby (right calf strain) are probable.
NO SENSE GRIPING: Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland, who missed four games with a broken forearm and was placed on the injured-reserve list when he broke his foot Dec. 15 in Detroit, has been a presence in the locker room this week. McFarland, a starter known for his jocularity, said there is no sense crying over his inability to play.
"I'm all right; I'm good," McFarland said. "There's no doubt about it. I would love to be out there. But the fact of the matter is these are the cards that you're dealt, so you play them. I don't allow myself to sit and worry about it, I just try to help the guys out and offer them support."
THE PUNTING GAME: According to cornerback Dwight Smith, the Eagles have a habit of taking a shot downfield on third and short, particularly if they're close to midfield, or on their opponent's side of the field.
"They feel they're not going to lose any ground," Smith said. "If they make the play, it's good for them. If not, they feel they can punt the ball, let their defense pin you down, and then get the ball back on a punt, close to the same spot."
The added problem for Eagles opponents, Smith pointed out, is punting to them puts the ball in the hands of Brian Mitchell, the league's all-time leader in eight return categories.
"If you're going to give Brian Mitchell a chance to just catch it and go upfield, he's going to get 12 or 15 yards every punt return," Smith said. "Those 12 or 15 yards you can't give up in a game like this."
NOTHING BUT LOVE: Left tackle Roman Oben has had a solid first season with the Bucs but faces a monumental test against Pro Bowl defensive end Hugh Douglas.
Oben has faced Douglas a number of times through his career and held his own when the Bucs played the Eagles on Oct. 20. The fact that Douglas was held without a sack in that game means nothing, Oben said.
"He's got a great combination of size and speed," Oben said of the 6-2, 280-pound Douglas. "He's not a traditional long-armed guy, he's shorter and squattier. But he also has the speed to get around guys and the power to push you back and collapse the pocket."
Oben said though Douglas didn't have a sack in the game, he was disruptive and his presence on the field is inspirational to the rest of the defense.
"There are different types of leadership," Oben said. "There's the serious player who leads by example or business as usual every day, like (Bucs quarterback) Brad (Johnson). Then you've got the more outspoken guys like Hugh. He's a great player and everything he's had he's worked for."
ODDS AND ENDS: Former Bucs tackle Paul Gruber will be an honorary captain for today's team sendoff at Raymond James Stadium, as will ex-Buc Richard Wood, who coached Wharton High to the state championship game. ... Receiver Todd Pinkston still is bothered by a slight case of turf toe. ... The Eagles practice today and will hold a walk-through at 10 Saturday morning.
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