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Lynch says he'll be ready to play

By ROGER MILLS and ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 18, 2000


TAMPA -- All-Pro strong safety John Lynch returned to practice Friday after missing the week with a deep left quadriceps bruise.

Lynch, who received treatment at St. Joseph's Hospital while his wife was delivering daughter Lindsay on Monday, said he is fine and expects to play the entire game against the Bears. He said practicing Friday was important.

"It's always good to get out there," Lynch said. "The game plan adjusts week to week and you can see it on the board and in film but not until you get those repetitions does it click in. So, even at this stage of your career it's important to practice. That one day is important."

Coach Tony Dungy said he expects Lynch to be fine by Sunday but added that he's not concerned should Lynch take a few reps off.

"Dexter Jackson's been going," Dungy said. "We hope that John's 100 percent and if he's not, Dexter finished the job last week and did a good job so I think we'll be okay."

While Lynch talked to reporters outside the locker room, veteran offensive guard Randall McDaniel passed by and suggested that Lynch was making more of his injury than he should.

"This injury would have taken Randall McDaniel a year," Lynch joked. "He would have been on injured reserve."

McDaniel, who Sunday played in his 200th NFL game and has made 180 consecutive starts, chipped in: "I wouldn't even have reported it."

OTHER INJURIES: Offensive tackle George Hegamin (left ankle sprain) was held out of practice for precautionary measures but is listed as probable for Sunday. Guard Frank Middleton (right ankle sprain), linebacker Derrick Brooks (low back strain) and center/guard Todd Washington (right ankle) practiced and are probable.

TO HECK WITH BRAVADO: There is a long-standing tradition in the NFL that offensive linemen sometimes don't wear long sleeves in cold weather as a sign of their toughness. That tradition escapes Middleton.

"I got my sleeves," he said. "Offensive linemen might want to show people they are tough, well I did that already. I'm not out to prove anything. I'm wearing sleeves, I'm wearing socks and everything. Don't let it fool you, you can be tough and still be warm."

SACK RACE: With 42 sacks, the Bucs are two from the team record set in 1997. Considering that All-Pro defensive tackle Warren Sapp and defensive end Marcus Jones have combined for 211/2 sacks, which is more than 14 teams in the league, the record is likely to be broken soon.

"We go into the games thinking about all the facets of the game and rushing the passer is one of the things we do," Jones said. "But, it's not like we sit and think about setting a record. I'll be glad once we get it so everyone can stop talking about it."

NEW AND IMPROVED: The Bucs beat the Bears 41-0 in Week 2, but Dungy said he expects a far more competitive defense Sunday. One of the reasons is the improved play of rookie linebacker Brian Urlacher.

"He has helped them out," Dungy said. "He was playing outside linebacker the first time around and kind of still learning the system. He's since moved to middle backer, which looks like it's a little more natural for him, gets a chance to run to both sidelines and he's done a good job.

"They're playing better on defense and they've got a lot of active guys. We expect a much better team than we saw the first time around, and even with that it was 3-0 after 27 minutes. So we know we've got to be ready."

INACTIVES: Safety David Gibson, wide receiver Andre Hastings, defensive end John McLaughlin and tight end Todd Yoder will not dress Sunday. The Bucs will declare four additional players inactive 90 minutes before kickoff.

THE REAL BIG GAME: While most of Florida is focusing on the Seminoles-Gators clash, Dungy said there's another game that has commanded his attention.

"I've been a little more focused in on the big game, Iowa-Minnesota," said Dungy, who played quarterback at Minnesota in the mid-1970s. "I think Florida-Florida State, there probably won't be quite as much hitting as the Iowa-Minnesota game, but I think there'll be more scoring and it probably will be a good game."

Dungy explained to reporters that the winner of the Iowa-Minnesota game receives the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy, a 4-foot bronze pig. The teams have vied for the trophy since 1935, when the Iowa governor paid off a bet with the Minnesota governor by having a pig from the famed Rosedale farm delivered to St. Paul.

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