TAMPA - Joe Jurevicius strutted from the players' parking lot on the west side of Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, skirting a line of fans leaning on the barricades and yelling his name.
Wearing dark sunglasses despite the shadow cast by the stadium, Jurevicius glanced at his watch. It was about two hours before the Bucs' game against the Bears, but it was clear the seventh-year receiver out of Penn State was ready to go right then.
Having not played since Nov.30, Jurevicius would have taken the field in his khaki pants and blue dress shirt.
It was worth the wait.
The 29-year-old fan favorite ran from the tunnel amid a standing ovation from the 65,550. He made his first catch, a 13-yarder, in almost 11 months on third and 9 with 6:04 left in the second quarter, keeping alive what turned into the touchdown drive that gave the Bucs a 10-0 lead.
In typical Jurevicius fashion, he bounced up and gave his own first down signal.
"I needed that," Jurevicius said, "to just give the first down signal. I'm going to have plenty more."
Jurevicius missed 11 games last season with a torn right knee ligament and the first six of this season after surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back.
There was nothing outstanding to Jurevicius' day. His only other catch came on the next play, an 8-yarder. But just the fact he played seemed to be enough for him and quarterback Brian Griese .
"It's great to have Joe back," Griese said.
Added Jurevicius: "You have to start somewhere. We've always talked about building a house, setting the foundation and building it layer by layer. For me, that's my first brick. I hope it turns into a beautiful house and not an outhouse.
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity of laying another brick, to get out there and do the things that I think I can, that I know I can, to help this football team."
COMFORT ZONE: You can tell Griese is comfortable with his situation when he makes the most uncomfortable plays look easy. Suffice it to say, he felt well Sunday.
Making his first start at home with the Bucs, Griese completed a 46-yard pass to Michael Pittman down the sideline late in the first quarter despite throwing off his back foot while backpedaling in the pocket. That led to Martin Gramatica 's 22-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
A couple of series later, he scrambled toward the sideline and threw back across his body for another completion.
Griese was 15-of-23 for 163 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.5. He didn't go so far as to say the Bucs are "his team," but he admitted to having the feel of being in a groove.
"I'm just trying to make plays," Griese said. "I think the biggest thing for a quarterback in the NFL is you have to make the plays that are there to make.
"But when a play breaks down and it's not necessarily there like you drew it up on the grease board, you can improvise."
DEFENSIVELY SPEAKING: Overlooked due to Mike Alstott 's injury, Pittman's 109 rushing yards and Gramatica's perfect day was the play of the defense.
The Bucs held the Bears to 167 total yards, 76 on the ground, and sacked the two quarterbacks a combined four times.
Cornerback Ronde Barber snared his first interception of the season, leading to Tampa Bay's final touchdown.
On top of that, defensive end Simeon Rice had his first multisack game since Dec.7 and backup Dewayne White recorded his first sack when he tackled Jonathan Quinn during the first quarter.
It was even more special because White accepted a move from end to tackle as a way to get more playing time.
"Since I was a defensive end, I'm a lot faster than what they're used to seeing inside," White said. "They have to respect those moves. That gives me an advantage over them.
"It felt like a dream when I got up. It was awesome. I'll never forget it."
BY THE NUMBERS: Michael Clayton leads all rookie receivers in catches and yards with 37 for 505. Sunday, he finished with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
Tim Brown hauled in his requisite reception in the second quarter, a 13-yarder. He has a catch in 179 straight games, the league's longest active streak and three behind Art Monk for second all-time, but only five for 48 yards in the past four games.
Tight end Dave Moore , on the other hand, still needs 1 receiving yard for 2,000.
Torrie Cox entered as the league's leading kickoff returner, averaging 29.8 yards. He returned two kicks for 45 yards but made a bigger impact when he recovered Chicago's fumbled kickoff to open the second half.