By DARRELL FRY, ROGER MILLS and PETE YOUNG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 1, 2001
TAMPA -- Fullback Mike Alstott was given the Miller Lite Player of the Week Award for his play in Tampa Bay's 41-14 blowout of Minnesota on Sunday.
Picked by a panel of national journalists and broadcasters, Alstott was selected over Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon and New Orleans receiver Joe Horn.
Alstott, playing running back in place of injured starter Warrick Dunn, scored three touchdowns and rushed for 129 yards on 28 carries.
"A lot of players last week had awesome weeks. I'm going out there and performing, and to be selected as the player of the week is a great honor," Alstott said. "This ball should go to the offensive linemen and the rest of the guys on the offensive side for making it possible for me to get this award."
Alstott is eligible to be among six players of the week chosen at season's end to compete for player of the year. Media representatives from each NFL market will pick the winner.
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Alstott said the Bucs are more focused these days, as evidenced by Sunday's big win.
"I don't know how to describe it, but you sense it. You don't have to talk to no one. You don't have to do anything," Alstott said. "Last week was very intense, very focused and there was a sense that we've got to get the job done. With the leaders we have on the team, it will be like that again (this week)."
LAMBEAU JUST ANOTHER STADIUM? With the Bucs' annual trips to Lambeau Field coming to an end Sunday (Tampa Bay moves to the new NFC South division next season), several players have been going on and on about the aura of Green Bay's stadium. Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, though, hasn't been one of them.
Asked how special it is play at Lambeau, Johnson said: "I don't know if it's special. I mean, yeah, it's a football stadium. Lambeau has history. But saying how special it is ... I mean, we've got to play them just like they've got to play us."
JOHNSON UPDATE: As for his ailing knee being ready by Sunday, Johnson said: "I look forward to playing on Sunday. ... I feel pretty good. I expect to practice here in the next couple of days, so we'll see what happens."
He did not practice Wednesday, but coach Tony Dungy said his progress is encouraging and he could return as early as today.
"He's actually a little bit better than last week so we might get him back to practice (today)," Dungy said. "He's a pretty strong guy and he's able to play with pain pretty well. He likes to practice. He's been amazing."
Suffering a host of bumps and bruises the past few weeks, Johnson has not missed a game. Before suffering a right knee contusion just before halftime of the Vikings game, Johnson had five catches for 62 yards.
"Have you ever known me to miss a game?" Johnson said.
OTHER INJURIES: Seven other players either sat out or participated in limited action. So few were the numbers that quarterback Joe Hamilton and cornerback Corey Ivy played receiver on the scout team.
"We had a lot of guys out and hope to get some back (today)," Dungy said. "The guys that had to fill in did a great job."
Receivers Jacquez Green (left groin strain), defensive end Marcus Jones (left elbow sprain), safety Eric Vance (lower back strain) and linebacker Nate Webster (right shoulder sprain) sat out and are listed as questionable.
Jones has shown some improvement and has a chance to play Sunday.
Running back Warrick Dunn (right hamstring) took part in some of the afternoon drills and is probable.
"Warrick did what we wanted him to do," Dungy said. "He actually went through the first part of practice, that was our plan to get him through the individual work and he ran fine. We'll give him a little bit more (today). He's probably moved up a little bit. He's got a chance to play this week."
Linebacker Derrick Brooks (left foot sprain) and receiver Reidel Anthony (right hip flexor strain) also sat out but are probable. Linebacker Jeff Gooch returned to practice after missing the past week with a sprained right shoulder.
Defensive end Anthony McFarland (right knee sprain) is out.
MR. POPULAR: Running back Aaron Stecker had a breakout game against the Vikings in the absence of Dunn. He got his first career touchdown on a 35-yard catch-and-run and had a career-high 30 rushing yards.
However, his popularity with the media this week has more to do with where the Bucs play Sunday than Stecker's performance. Stecker is a Green Bay native, and he was raised around Packermania: His home is 11/2 miles from Lambeau Field.
He said the streets are desolate when the Packers play.
"I think some (stores) are open, but I don't think anybody goes," Stecker said. "That's the way it is up there; Sundays are Packer days."
Green Bay has a long-earned reputation as a football town, and when the Packers lose, the next-day reaction is familiar.
"It's kind of the way it is down here, everybody's talking about it on talk radio, saying how bad it was," Stecker said. "But it goes away after about a day."
GETTING BETTER: From the sideline on Sunday, Dunn noticed the much-improved play of the offensive line.
"Things have been rough for those guys, but now, (rookie left tackle) Kenyatta (Walker) is starting to gain confidence and play like he did in college."