By ROGER MILLS and DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2001
TAMPA -- How is this for irony.
On Sunday, Jameel Cook could be facing one of the busiest days of his young career. Friday, he did not practice because of a right hip flexor strain.
With the running game under such scrutiny, Cook's outstanding blocking has been the center of debate. Coach Tony Dungy earlier this week suggested that Cook, who has blocked for Mike Alstott, will see some time blocking for Warrick Dunn.
Cook's workload should increase because the Bucs likely will use Alstott as the primary runner.
Dungy expected Cook to be ready but did not rule out deactivating him.
"This really puts us back to not having him up and puts us back to just having Mike and Warrick, Rabih (Abdullah) and probably Aaron Stecker," Dungy said. "We would prefer not to have that happen, but we'll see. He's had it before but got it aggravated in Thursday's practice. If he can't go, we'll go with the other guys."
SACK ATTACK: In their last meeting, the Bucs sacked Bears quarterback Jim Miller three times for 22 yards.
The Bears have allowed 12 sacks and are tied with Miami for fewest.
"When I look at film, I see guys trying to keep their guy off the quarterback and I see a quarterback releasing the ball really quickly," Bucs defensive end Marcus Jones said. "They used to have a lot of schemes and draws and they've been changing things up a little bit recently. But (Miller) is still getting rid of the ball pretty quickly."
Jones said the defensive front can be inspired by the knowledge that its effort against the Bears was one of the best for the season.
"We stopped them from running the ball and they really didn't do that well," he said. "We just have to stop the big plays and once we do we can shut them down."
Defensive end Steve White, who had one of his best games of the season with two sacks and three tackles, said the Bears aren't likely to overlook the effort of the defense.
"I think the last game showed us we can play with these guys," White said. "All we have to do is concentrate the whole game and we would definitely be in the hunt at the end of the game.
"They have to respect us. They barely made it out of here the last time with a win. They know what we can do. Trust me, no matter what they say, they definitely respect us and they fear us."
ROAD WARRIORS: The Bucs enter Chicago, their final road game of the regular season, riding a three-game road winning streak. The Bucs have won four road games: Dallas (10-6), Detroit (20-17), St. Louis (24-17) and Cincinnati (16-13). With a win in Chicago, the Bucs could tie the franchise record set in 1979 and 1997 for most road wins in a season.
"That'll definitely help us get where we want to go," Dungy said. "We played pretty well on the road even in the three losses we have had. We were in the game with a chance on the last drive to win. We've done a good job on the road and need to finish off with a win.
"I guess it would be nice to do something that hasn't been done before but I wasn't aware of (the record)."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: After reviewing film of the game between the Bucs and the Lions, Elias Sports Bureau, the official statisticians of the league, took a sack from Warren Sapp and gave a half a sack to White and Anthony McFarland.
It brings White's season total to three, McFarland's to 21/2 and dropped Sapp to five. Simeon Rice leads the Bucs with six sacks.
BEARS QUOTABLE: "It's a chance for us to clinch a playoff berth and a chance to put them far down in the division. It's a big game in that aspect. It's a one-game season. We win this one and we're in." -- linebacker Brian Urlacher.
OTHER INJURIES: Safety Eric Vance (right knee sprain) did not practice Friday and is questionable. Center Jeff Christy (right thumb sprain), linebacker Jeff Gooch (right hamstring strain), receiver Keyshawn Johnson (left ankle sprain) and long snapper Sean McDermott (neck strain) practiced and are probable.