TAMPA - As soon as the final horn blew to signal the end of practice Thursday, players sprinted off the field at One Buc Place to begin their only weekend off during a grueling NFL schedule.
Three whole days.
The team, which has a bye this week, will not practice again until Monday morning to prepare for the Chiefs on Nov.7. Several players planned trips, while others opted to stay close.
Receiver Joe Jurevicius was going to Ohio, cornerback Torrie Cox to Miami. Receiver Tim Brown hoped to talk his wife out of a family trip to Disney World, which hardly sounded like a vacation to the 38-year-old veteran. Quarterback Chris Simms is stuck in Tampa to rehab his injured left shoulder.
"My shoulder has ruined my whole month," Simms said.
For coach Jon Gruden , there was no rush.
"I might sneak out and take my wife to dinner. I think I need to do that," he said. "But I think I'm going to spend as much time as I can looking at our roster and try to get a feel of who is going active, starting and playing in the game. That impacts how we call plays and put things together."
PROGRESS REPORT: Gruden is pleased with the way the team has rebounded from an 0-4 start. At 2-5 and winners of two of the past three, the Bucs are improved on offense and could see injured receiver Joey Galloway (groin strain), fullback Mike Alstott (MCL sprain) and guard Matt O'Dwyer (pectoral strain) return in the coming weeks.
"We played three pretty good games in a row and I'm going to concentrate on the second half of the season," Gruden said. "With this Chiefs game we have a chance to go 3-1 in the second quarter of the season and then we are fair game in the second half of the season. I'm impressed with the development of some young players, some guys that have emerged and caught my attention, and it will be exciting to see how it unfolds in the next couple of weeks."
SCARY PRECEDENT: Gruden can sympathize with all those younger brothers who don't get first pick of Halloween costumes. When it came to trick-or-treat, Gruden typically was reduced to sidekick status.
"I had a tough time with the costumes," said Gruden, whose older brother, Jim , got first option. "My older brother kind of got what he wanted to be and I had to be what he wanted me to be. I was Robin."