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Coach expects ailing Gramatica to play
By ROGER MILLS
Published November 9, 2004
TAMPA - Martin Gramatica, 11-for-16 on field goals this season, injured his hip Sunday, coach Jon Gruden said.
"We haven't lost him," Gruden said Monday. "If he can't play, we'll have to sign a kicker. (General manager) Bruce (Allen) and the personnel staff are working on contingency plans right now. But we are confident that he'll be ready to go."
Gruden said he did not know when Gramatica, who missed a field goal from 46 yards and an extra point, sustained the right hip flexor. He said Gramatica probably will rest for a few days, and the Bucs will decide later this week whether they need to sign a kicker.
"We've waited until game day," Gruden said. "It's not like we're going to bring in a kicker and kick all day. I've been through this with kickers in the past. We expect him to kick. We don't think this injury is going to hold him out of the game. I don't want to create that much of a concern."
Starting center John Wade is out for the season with a dislocated knee. There are concerns about receiver Joey Galloway (groin strain) and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland (right triceps strain), both of whom are questionable for Sunday's game at Atlanta, as well as safety Jermaine Phillips, whose right forearm is fractured but who is expected to play.
Galloway tore his groin in the opener and did not play until Sunday. His injury is likely to linger.
"It's very tough on him," Gruden said. "I didn't know if he was going to play (Sunday). I don't know if he is going to play this week. He played about 17 plays in the game and was out early in the third quarter. I'm just hoping that he can find his way to the (turf in Atlanta), because fast guys like that stuff."
NOT GOING THERE: The bitter divorce between Gruden and former Bucs general manager Rich McKay, now president and general manager of the Falcons, is well documented. But Gruden said it is "ridiculous" to revisit the relationship.
"Rich is not playing in the game and I am not either," Gruden said. "So it was something very sensitive and always will be. He was a great general manager here, but that is not for me to concern myself with. He is not here, he is in Atlanta. It is a big game for them and us. The players will decide the outcome. (The past) has no bearing in my opinion."
McKay left the Bucs with two games left in the 2003 regular season. He was the team's highest-ranking football executive from 1995-2003.
O'DWYER ON DECK: There was some good news Monday. Quarterback Chris Simms will return to full practice Wednesday, as well as right guard Matt O'Dwyer, who has been sidelined since the summer with a torn pectoral muscle.
O'Dwyer was on the team's physically unable to perform list and had to sit out the first eight games. The team has 21 days to activate him but must create a roster spot to do so.
"Yes, why not," Gruden said. "We've got so many guys coming and going, it's just another opportunity to get another big physical football player on our roster."
IN-SPIRED EFFORT: One player who continues to get raves from the coaching staff is defensive end Greg Spires. He was credited with eight tackles against the Chiefs.
"When you look at the film, he is a punishing, physical football player against the run, the pass and every down," Gruden said. "He is playing great football for us right now. He is as productive a defensive player as we have right now. Hopefully, he will start to get more national notoriety because he certainly deserves it."
Spires, 30, has 45 tackles and three sacks and has been pushed since training camp by second-year end Dewayne White.
"I knew coming in that this was the last year of my contract, so I don't need Dewayne White to motivate me," Spires said. "It's always good to have competition, it brings the best out of everybody. I've been kind of injury-free, taking care of my body. So it's been a really good year."