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By JOANNE KORTH
Published November 20, 2004
TAMPA - Quarterback Brian Griese, whose right throwing shoulder was sore early in the week, practiced Friday and will start Sunday against the 49ers, coach Jon Gruden said.
Griese was limited Wednesday and Thursday after being sacked seven times and knocked down several more in the 24-14 loss to the Falcons.
"He did pretty good," Gruden said of Griese's effort Friday. "He's still a little bit sore, but he did practice and threw the ball good."
Gruden said he has determined whether veteran Brad Johnson or second-year pro Chris Simms will be the backup but does not plan to announce his choice until Sunday.
"Both guys are ready to go," he said.
SLOW STARTERS: The Bucs have developed a dangerous habit of falling behind. Six times their opponent has scored first and twice Tampa Bay has trailed by two scores.
"Statistics say if you score first your chances of winning are better," Gruden said. "You establish momentum. You get the crowd in or out of the game, depending on where you're playing. You build confidence."
In the past two games, the defense has surrendered points on the game's opening drive, a touchdown to the Chiefs and a field goal to the Falcons. Against Atlanta, the Bucs failed to come back from a 17-0 deficit.
"We have to start quicker in all phases," Gruden said. "I believe we've given up opening-drive scores defensively in several of these games for whatever reason. We'd like to get a three-and-out, get good field position and capitalize."
A-TRAIN ON TRACK: Fullback Mike Alstott returns to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. How big the bruising runner's role will be is uncertain.
"He's looked good on the practice field," Gruden said. "We'll see how the game goes. He'll start at fullback and hopefully he feels very good and becomes a big part of this game."
HELP WANTED: The Bucs have an open spot on the 53-man roster since putting defensive tackle Anthony McFarland on injured reserve Thursday with a torn right triceps tendon. The team could sign a player today.
McFarland had season-ending surgery Friday.
INJURY REPORT: Safety Dwight Smith (knee) is probable.
[Last modified November 20, 2004, 01:05:22]