tampabay.com

Spires won't make or take excuses

By RICK STROUD
Published September 25, 2005


Greg Spires was furious. He felt the sickening pop, the biting pain in his left arm, then the restricted movement. He had torn a biceps muscle in Sunday's 19-3 home-opening win over the Bills.

The anger boiled to the surface, spilling over in the huddle and between snaps. It doesn't get any worse than this, he thought.

Not the injury. Missing a sack because of it.

That's just Spires. One play after his arm ceased functioning properly, Spires had Bills quarterback J.P. Losman wrapped in his right arm. But his damaged left arm couldn't close the deal and the rookie escaped to live another down.

"It happened the play before I missed my sack," Spires said. "Right before that, I tore my biceps. That's probably why I missed my sack.

"When it happened in the game, I knew I couldn't tackle anyone. All I could do was get in my gap and just do the best I could. It's hard. You do all you can do. I had my legs under me and couldn't wrap up."

This is not new territory for the 31-year-old defensive end. Last season he tore the biceps in his right arm and never missed a start. In fact, he had a career year, finishing second on the team with eight sacks and a personal-best 86 tackles.

That wasn't the only injury the 6-foot-1, 265-pound Spires played through in 2004. He also had plantar fasciitis in his foot.

"But it's still not as bad as a groin injury," Spires said. "A groin (injury) is the worst. Every movement hurts. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy."

Don't feel sorry for the eighth-year veteran out of Florida State. He refuses to make excuses. With rest, the muscle will reattach itself. But he isn't taking plays off, let alone practices or games. He finally went out in the fourth quarter against the Bills, because by then his arm had cramped.

"I don't have a choice, really," Spires said. "With an injury like that, you either play or put me on (injured reserve). You really don't have a choice."

CHEM LAB: You hear a lot about chemistry in the NFL, and it's not a small factor in winning and losing. Ask Jon Gruden. For two years the Bucs coach thought he needed to bring in scores of free agents to compensate for the obvious lack of draft choices. But some of those players didn't accept their roles because they knew it might be a short-term relationship.

Contrast that with the 22 first- or second-year players who made the final 53-man roster this season. That's why Gruden likes the camaraderie of his current team.

"It was a tough situation at times because there weren't a lot people that were convinced they were going to be here for the long haul," Gruden said. "Whereas, some of these young guys with these five-year deals, there's no way out now. Whether you admit it or not, there's a lot of truth to that."

NO CATCHES: Cadillac Williams leads the NFL in rushing, but he has yet to have a pass thrown in his direction.

"We haven't thrown the ball very much," Gruden said. "When we throw the ball, he'll be involved. He's been in there in passing situations. We just haven't found the backs much yet. A lot of that has to do with the style of defenses we've seen. Sometimes our backs have to pick up blitzes. We'd like to get him more and more involved in every aspect of our lives."