By BRANT JAMES
© St. Petersburg Times,
published October 22, 2001
TAMPA -- Warrick Dunn, in just his second game back after missing a week with a sprained foot, sustained a right hamstring strain against Pittsburgh on Sunday and could miss more playing time.
"I don't know what kind of situation we're going to be in," coach Tony Dungy said of the running back's status this week against Minnesota. "Warrick pulled a muscle, and he may be out a little while. So I don't know who it'll be carrying the load." Dunn finished with 31 yards on 13 carries.
If he is sidelined against the Vikings, it would leave the Bucs thin. Dunn's primary backup, Aaron Stecker, sustained a knee injury against Tennessee last week and was inactive Sunday. His status is uncertain for the Minnesota game.
Tampa Bay's starting receivers sustained injuries against the Steelers.
Keyshawn Johnson was sidelined during the final minutes by a right hip flexor strain. And Jacquez Green sustained a left hip sprain. Their injuries will be re-evaluated today.
HEY, OVER HERE: Green sat at his locker patiently, removing the tape around his ankles and going over in his mind another frustrating and heartbreaking loss in which the offense didn't do enough.
This time, Green was a little concerned about the predictability and limited scope of the Bucs' attack.
"We're solid as a unit, but when we get in the game, we don't do (anything), basically," Green said. "It's run Warrick, throw to Key. Run Warrick, throw to Key. That's basically it."
Green, who had four receptions for 44 yards, including a crucial 24-yarder on third and 16 early in the fourth quarter, seemed to be displeased by play calling that left him out of the mix.
"In my opinion, I think I'm open a lot. A lot," Green said. "But I think I'm so scrutinized around here that I don't want to say, 'I want the ball more.' And then, when I say I want the ball more and I drop a pass, they reply, 'Oh, I told you so' or some kind of other stuff. So I just try to play ball and keep my mouth shut."
Green said that while Johnson deserves all the credit for coming up with the number of catches he has, it's important for the ball to be spread around.
"Key is a great receiver and is having a great season. I don't want to take anything away from him," Green said. "So, if you know when he runs a certain route that the safety is going to jump off on him, then why don't you call plays off of that. If you know they're going to take him off the seam, have somebody run the dig and come out wide open. I don't understand that.
"But don't take nothing from Key, he's having a great season. And Brad (Johnson) is doing a great job throwing it to him. Me, I'm just trying to do my job."
SIMILAR: Ronde Barber has had the silver-lining game before, and says he doesn't care for it.
The Bucs cornerback took over the team lead in interceptions (three) with two against the Steelers' Kordell Stewart, but Barber said it didn't numb the frustration of the loss.
"Winning and losing is always the bottom line," Barber said. "You get five picks in a game and lose and it doesn't matter. I consider myself a team guy and I like those accolades, but who cares if you're not winning?"
TRICKERY: Jerome Bettis' 32-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jerame Tuman in the second quarter marked the second time in two seasons the Bucs have been duped by a halfback option.
Jets running back Curtis Martin hit wideout Wayne Chrebet for an 18-yard score with 52 seconds left in a 21-17 win last season.
MOVING UP: Bettis' 57-yard touchdown run gave him 143 yards for the game, 10,354 for his career and moved him past Ottis Anderson for 13th on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
FIELD POSITION: The Bucs' sputtering offense did not get many breaks on field position in the first half, starting at its 6-, 5- and 15-yard line. The Bucs' average starting field position was their 22.
BITS: The defense has at least one interception in each of the past nine games and leads the NFC with 10 this season. ... Rookie John Howell made his first career start in place of injured free safety Dexter Jackson (right thigh contusion), sacking Stewart in the second quarter. ... Tampa Bay's home win streak was snapped at six. ... Receiver Frank Murphy scored his first career touchdown. ... Defensive tackle Anthony McFarland is tied with defensive end Marcus Jones for the team lead in sacks (two) after recording one in the third quarter. The Bucs have a sack in 33 straight games, the NFL's longest streak.
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