By DARRELL FRY and ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000
TAMPA -- With safeties John Lynch and Eric Vance nursing injuries that could keep them out of Sunday's game against the Bills, the Bucs needed help for this week's practices.
They got it by signing first-year safety Lemar Marshall to the practice squad Wednesday. The Bucs also promoted receiver Frank Murphy from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and released veteran receiver Andre Hastings.
"We needed Lemar because we have some of our safeties banged up and that was a way to get him on the practice squad," coach Tony Dungy said.
Marshall, who was working out at home in Cincinnati and contemplating the XFL when the Bucs called, is in his third stint with Tampa Bay. He originally signed with the Bucs as a rookie free agent April 19, 1999. He was released before the start of the season. He was claimed off waivers from the Eagles on Aug. 22 and led the Bucs with five tackles and one special teams stop against the Chiefs in the final preseason game. He was released Aug.28.
"It's something that you want," Marshall said. "It's your dream to be on a team and to be part of a great organization and a great team, so I'm grateful for it." For Murphy, the move up is a reward for good work. A 5-foot-11, 206-pounder out of Kansas State, Murphy was drafted by the Bears in the sixth round and signed with the Bucs on Aug. 28 after being released. A former running back, Murphy said he has the tools to make the step up. "(My best assets are) probably my speed and my running-back ability in the open field," Murphy said. "I'm able to use my running-back skills if I catch the ball short or use my speed to go long. So it works to my advantage."
Said Dungy: "Frank has practiced very well and has been doing a good job, and this is a way to reward him as well."
The odd man out is Hastings, who signed on Aug. 3. The eight-year veteran played in three games and was inactive for eight.
"It's not easy to let a guy like that go, but that was a way to make these moves and help us out in this injury situation," Dungy said.
MORE INJURIES: Lynch (left shoulder sprain), Vance (right ankle sprain), offensive guard Frank Middleton (left shoulder sprain) and defensive end Steve White (right ankle sprain) did not practice. White is doubtful for Sunday, and Lynch and Vance are questionable.
"I probably would say the chances aren't good for this week," Lynch said. "It's not a pain issue. It's the structural integrity of the joint, whether it could stay in there or not. If it were a pain issue, I guarantee you I would be playing. Hopefully I'll see great improvement."
With White out, the Bucs will ask Tyoka Jackson to back up Marcus Jones on the right side, and James Cannida will see more snaps at tackle. Dungy said he expects Middleton to be fine by Sunday.
THANKS FOR THE MEAL: The team will practice today, although Dungy said he will let the players out early to get home in time for a family meal. It's something a number of the players are looking forward to.
"I'm going to eat as much as I can," said Middleton, who pointed out the large defensive tackles who play for the Bills. "I've got to gain about 50 pounds by Sunday. That's all I'm going to do Thursday is eat all day. I don't like turkey, but one ham won't be enough.
"I'm eating, eating and eating. I'll probably take a nap and eat some more. Thanksgiving is a great time to be thankful, and hopefully Sunday I'll have something to be thankful for."
As per NFL tradition, the holiday is celebrated with two games. Today's games -- New England at Detroit and Minnesota at Dallas -- will affect the NFC Central Division race. Dungy said he likely will watch a snap or two.
"I always like to try and watch a little football on Thanksgiving, but family priorities have to come in there, too," Dungy said. "But we'll be sneaking a peek at the TV now and then."
SHAUN'S THE MAN: Despite talk on radio talk shows for a change in quarterback, starter Shaun King appears unperturbed.
"We'll be fine," King said. "If I play badly, I know I did, and I'll stand up like a man and say I did. I don't really worry about what everybody writes or says. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I know what I'm capable of doing, and we'll come out and play like it on Sunday."
Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, one of King's strongest supporters since joining the Bucs, said it's pointless to suggest a change because King clearly is Dungy's choice.
"I think that's what the coaches are going with, and that's what they decided to do," Johnson said. "Obviously, the coaching staff thinks he gives us the best chance to win, and we have to rally around that and continue to do it."
Asked if he agreed with the choice, Johnson responded: "I follow all of my coaches' orders and what they want to do. That's coach Dungy's decision, and us, as players, we can't make the decision for coach Dungy."