Offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker is also being held out of practice because of a high ankle sprain but is expected to play against the Rams in St. Louis. The injury will open the door for rookie tackle Lance Nimmo to work with the first team offense and show his talent. Meanwhile guard Jason Whittle has returned to the practice field for the first time since breaking his leg in the first week of May. Although he will not play against St. Louis because of the artificial turf to protect his right leg he is expected to overthrow Cosey Coleman for the starting right guard position. Coach Gruden is optimistic that Whittle will play in the final two pre-season games at home. “We’re hoping to get him in on a couple of series against the Jacksonville Jaguars and let him play more against Houston in our finale,” added coach Gruden after Tuesday’s practice.
Other injuries include the sore leg of Pro-Bowl kicker Martin Gramatica. Although the injury isn’t considered to be serious Gramatica isn’t expected to dress against St. Louis giving Ralf Kleinman another chance to build his resume for employment with another team.
The battle for the starting punters job is starting to heat up. Rookie Andy Groom who was a part of the National Championship winning Ohio State Buckeyes team last year continues to impress. “Groom’s a young guy with a big leg and has shown a unique ability with directional kicking.” Veteran punter Tom Tupa remains in a dogfight to retain his roster spot. “He’s a guy that’s a valuable member of this team and he’s also an outstanding holder. Obviously, Tom is the lead horse,” remarked head coach Jon Gruden about the ongoing duel for the starting punting position.
Perhaps the most intriguing competition on the Bucs is who will win the kick returning duties. Longtime Buc and fan favorite Karl “The Truth” Williams has been an intricate part of the Bucs return game for the last seven years. Karl has yet to return a punt or kickoff this pre-season because the coaching staff wants to give the younger guys an opportunity to showcase their skills. “We want to see Reggie Barlow, Tim Wansley, Aaron Stecker, Jacquez Green and Fabian Davis at this time,” remarked coach Gruden when asked about the return game. Tim Wansley, who is challenging fellow cornerback Corey Ivy for the nickel back position must take advantage of this golden opportunity to get the coaches attention and prove his worth.
With the intensity every practice growing and their sought after NFL careers on the line pressure mounts on the players as the third pre-season game approaches and with it the roster cuts that will end the dreams of many to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.