tampabay.com

Defense likes fast surface but . . .

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published November 18, 2005


TAMPA - The defense has a reputation for being among the league's fastest and quickest. Put that defense on a fast surface, and it becomes even faster.

That's what the Bucs will see Sunday at Atlanta when they play the Falcons at the Georgia Dome, where the FieldTurf surface is much quicker than natural grass.

"It's a fast surface," coach Jon Gruden said. "Usually, the teams that play on it eight, nine times a year have a fast football team. It brings out the speed in a player, that's for sure."

But this surface is turf with a twist. In the past, artificial turf was a harder, flatter surface. But in recent years, many stadiums have opted for FieldTurf, which resembles natural grass in many ways. Still, it is a quicker surface than real grass.

"We always play fast on turf," cornerback Ronde Barber, 5 feet 10 and 184 pounds, said. "We play fast at Minnesota, we play fast at St. Louis, all those places.

"But the new stuff is so grasslike. It's real bouncy, and I don't like the bounce. I think it might be better for a heavier guy."

Either way, it is still a better option than what the Bucs have had to contend with at Raymond James Stadium. Players slipping when making cuts is a common occurrence and a concern.

"It hasn't been the best lately," Barber said. "You can probably ask anybody and I'm sure they'll give you the same answers. In the old Sombrero (Tampa Stadium), even though that was like eight years ago, the grass was always tight and firm. I think it was more dirt-based. This is more sand-based because of the drainage, so it doesn't stay down as much.

"It's slippery and it comes up. It's been a problem, but it's been really noticeable the past couple years. And it didn't help when a few years ago USF started playing there. If there's ever a game, even a week ahead of our game, it can be pretty torn up."

OFFICIALS BACK BUCS: Redskins coach Joe Gibbs criticized the call on Mike Alstott's winning two-point conversion during Sunday's game, but NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira told the Washington Post he reviewed the call by referee Bill Vinovich and agreed. It was ruled on the field that Alstott scored, and Vinovich upheld the ruling after the replay assistant called for a review.

"It's not clearly indisputable from what I saw," Pereira told the Post. "I cannot see the ball, and those are the same replays the referees were looking at."

Gibbs' contention was that Alstott's elbow was touching the ground before the ball broke the plane of the goal line. Gibbs was upset on Monday but said Wednesday he later called league officials to express his regret.

"I should have said, "Hey, we've got several things we're going to turn in (to the league) and want to look at with them,' " Gibbs said. " "We see it one way, and we'll see how they see it.' That should have been my comments."

INJURY UPDATES: Gruden was noncommittal Thursday regarding the chances of Dexter Jackson (hamstring) starting Sunday's game, but the free safety did practice for the second day in a row.

"He's questionable for the game and he's been inactive for some time and had, really, two full-speed practices," Gruden said. "We'll see how it goes."

Will Allen (knee), who has started the past three games, remains doubtful and isn't expected to play. Gruden said he would be comfortable going with Kalvin Pearson, but that scenario leaves the Bucs with practically no depth at safety.

Defensive end Greg Spires (shoulder) was limited Thursday and remains questionable. Receiver Michael Clayton practiced but continues to be listed as questionable.

For the Falcons, starting right tackle Todd Weiner (elbow) and defensive tackle Chad Lavalais (foot) were downgraded to questionable.