Knee still feeling okay, Joseph to start Sunday

Published October 12, 2006

TAMPA - If rookie Davin Joseph can walk Sunday, the Bucs plan to start him at right guard.

The first-round pick practiced with the starting offense on Wednesday, and barring a setback, Joseph will line up next to rookie right tackle Jeremy Trueblood against the Bengals.

Joseph sprained his left knee four days before the season opener and missed three games. He played in short-yardage situations Sunday at New Orleans.

Coach Jon Gruden made it clear Wednesday he plans to replace Sean Mahan with Joseph on Sunday.

"Provided he has a good week of practice and no setbacks, the plan is to start him," Gruden said. "We're anxious to see him play, obviously.

"He had a great camp for us, and he's a good football player. He's a little bit rusty, obviously, with the layoff, but he's practiced well the last five or six days. And to have him back gives us a guy we think is going to be a heck of a football player for us for a long time."

Joseph wasn't quite as eager to pronounce himself ready but said his condition is improving every day.

"It feels good," he said. "It really feels good to be back more than anything. I'm trying to take it one step at a time."

A big concern will be conditioning. Joseph hasn't played more than a snap or two since the final preseason game Aug. 31. Then there are the mental obstacles.

"It's a combination of both," Joseph said. "There's a lot of things you've got to get used to again: the calls and the hitting and how fast everything goes.

"So it's a combination of mental and physical preparation that everyone goes through every week."

THE OTHER ROOKIE LINEMAN: Trueblood received high marks for his first start Sunday, when he faced the Saints' Charles Grant. Grant had a sack and forced fumble, but Trueblood helped pave the way for Cadillac Williams' first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

"He did some good things," Gruden said. "I was very pleased with him. That's a hard place to play. It was very loud. Charles Grant's an excellent player and has been for a long time. (Trueblood) had some very good snaps against him."

BEAT UP: Cornerback Juran Bolden missed practice with a hip injury, and cornerback Brian Kelly still is bothered by turf toe. Both are questionable.

That's why the Bucs claimed Jets cornerback Derrick Strait off waivers and placed longsnapper Andrew Economos on injured reserve with a sprained knee. Strait has nine tackles in five games this season, mainly as the nickel back. He started at safety against Indianapolis on Oct. 1.

Also questionable: punt returner Mark Jones (hamstring), tight end/longsnapper Dave Moore (ribs), defensive end Simeon Rice (sprained shoulder) and receiver Maurice Stovall (strained back). Linebacker Ryan Nece is probable with a sprained knee.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I went home the other day and saw my son on the couch reading Sports Illustrated. And they were on the cover, so they must be doing a lot of good things." - Gruden on the Bengals