tampabay.com

Bucs prepare for Falcons' cut blocks

By STEPHEN F. HOLDER and RICK STROUD
Published September 14, 2006


TAMPA - To some, it is a brilliant tactic. To others, it is downright dirty.

Like it or not, the Falcons' oft-used cut-blocking techniques will be on display against the Bucs Sunday.

"We see it on film all the time," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said of the dangerous but legal tactic in which offensive linemen block below a defensive player's waist - often at the knees. A cut block is deemed a penalty if the defender is engaged with another offensive player at the time.

Some in NFL circles have called for the practice to be outlawed, but it remains a staple of the Falcons and Broncos offenses. Offensive line coach Alex Gibbs was Denver's offensive line coach from 1995-2003 and brought the technique to the Falcons. Last season, Carolina linemen Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker each suffered sprained ankles against Atlanta from cut blocks.

The key for the Bucs is to be cognizant of the tactic without being distracted by it.

"We just have to go out and play," Kiffin said. "If it's illegal, then the officials need to call it. If it's legal, then no problem."

Said defensive end Dewayne White: "You have to be aware of it. If they cut at you, hopefully they're late because you take off so fast that they can't get the block. Sometimes they miss and sometimes they get us. I remember they cut me twice last year and they got fined. Hopefully they learned their lesson."

INJURY UPDATE: Starting left guard Dan Buenning (ankle) returned to practice Wednesday but has very limited mobility. He is questionable for Sunday after missing the opener. He was injured Aug. 31 at Houston, in the final preseason game.

Coach Jon Gruden indicated the makeup of the offensive line would be the same as Sunday's if Buenning is unable to play. That likely would mean Sean Mahan would stay at left guard while Jeb Terry would continue at right guard in place of rookie Davin Joseph (knee), sidelined until October.

Elsewhere, linebacker Shelton Quarles (groin) practiced but said he is unsure whether he will play at Atlanta.

WHAT DAY OFF?: Tuesday was a day off for players, but Gruden said the front office and coaching staff was busy evaluating nine free agents, including quarterback Stefan LeFors who intrigued many in the team's scouting department when he came out of Louisville last season. LeFors, 25, was a fourth-round pick of the Panthers but was waived Sept. 2.

LeFors' workout came on the same day the Bucs worked out former Saints quarterback Todd Bouman, 34, but Gruden said the interest in other quarterbacks is no reflection on starter Chris Simms.

"I wouldn't look too far between the lines," Gruden said. "Our quarterback wears No. 2. We didn't have a very good debut but hopefully as the season unfolds he can showcase what he's all about."

NEW BATTERY: Long-snapper Dave Moore suffered a serious rib injury Sunday and likely won't play in Atlanta. As a result, the Bucs signed long-snapper Andrew Economos to the practice squad Wednesday.

Economos worked with holder Josh Bidwell and placekicker Matt Bryant in practice. Bryant made all of his field goals.

"There's going to be a little bit of an adjustment but it's not anything super major. It's not like we have a different quarterback going in there or anything like that," Bidwell said. "Dave has done a great job and when he's healthy, he'll be back. I think more than affecting me, it'll probably affect Matt's rhythm a little bit. We got a good warmup with Andrew today and Matt hit all his field goals right down the middle and Andrew had great snaps. It doesn't take rocket science to figure out the timing, this is what he does and by the end of the week we should be just fine."

MORE MOVES: Tight end Keith Heinrich, a sixth-round draft choice of the Panthers in 2002 who spent time with Cleveland and Miami, was signed to the practice squad and fullback Rick Razzano was released.