By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 25, 2000
TAMPA -- There still is a chance All-Pro safety John Lynch could play Sunday against the Bills, but it's a slim one.
Lynch, who dislocated his left shoulder against Chicago on Sunday, is listed as doubtful with a shoulder sprain, though he did practice Friday with the scout team.
"John was trying to see how things were going," coach Tony Dungy said of Lynch's first practice this week. "I would say it's still kind of doubtful right now that he'll be able to play. He's doing better than he was earlier in the week, so we'll make the decision on Sunday."
Lynch's injury could prove problematic for the Bucs, who enter a virtual must-win game with Dexter Jackson and Damien Robinson as the starting safeties and rookie David Gibson as the only healthy backup. Eric Vance (ankle) may not play. Cornerback Ronde Barber is the team's emergency safety.
"I'm still holding out hope that I can play on Sunday," Lynch said. "I wanted to give (my shoulder) a test to see how it felt. In the event that I can't play, I wanted to give those guys as many reps as possible."
The biggest concern is whether Lynch risked further damage, taking into consideration his reputation for ferocious hits.
"That's what we're going to try to determine," Dungy said. "At this point I don't really know, but we're going to have doctors evaluate it and then decide at game time. If there is a risk, he won't play."
WATCHING THE ENEMY: Although they likely spent time devouring Thanksgiving meals, many at One Buc Place caught a glimpse of the Lions (8-4) and the Vikings (10-2) Thursday.
Trailing both teams in the NFC Central, the Bucs (6-5) fell another half-game behind after the Lions mauled the Patriots 34-9 and the Vikings smashed the Cowboys 27-15.
"They're playing good football right now, and somehow we've got to get ourselves to where we're playing good football," Dungy said. "I think, if we do, we can play on a par with them.
"I think it speaks well for both of them that they have been able to play consistently pretty much throughout the year."
Thursday's performances may have sent a message to the entire NFL, but it left the Bucs with a bitter taste.
"It's disappointing right now to know that they are probably the two hottest teams in the NFC and we've beaten one by four touchdowns and one by three touchdowns and we're kind of in the middle of the pack," Dungy said. "We've got to get ourselves going this week and ... try to get ourselves on a winning streak."
THIS AIN'T BUFFALO, BUT ... : There was no blizzard, but the Bucs still had to deal with the elements in practice Friday, as some rather strong winds blew through the practice fields at midday.
INACTIVES: Running back Mike Alstott, receiver Frank Murphy, tackle DeMarcus Curry and defensive end Steve White are inactive for Sunday's game. Vance (right ankle sprain) has been downgraded to doubtful.