"It’ll be up to him," Schiano said. "He knows his body. He knows if he can do it or not. He desperately wants to help us win, but he and I have talked and he’ll let me know."
Schiano said missing practice time isn’t a big issue for a veteran like Jackson.
"A guy like Vincent can (play without much practice) because he has so many cumulative reps and he works so hard when he’s out there," Schiano said.
Schiano said even when Jackson is healthy, the Bucs try to limit him in practice.
"Our biggest job with Vincent is pulling him back during the week," Schiano said. "We have to limit his reps, because he just goes all out in practice every time he runs a route. And then he finishes the route for about 30 yards and then he runs all the way back. (Receivers coach) John Garrett has done a good job of limiting his reps, because we know he’s going to go that way, which we love, but limiting his reps so he’s ready to go on Sunday. So a week where he doesn’t do a lot is actually not a bad thing for Vince as long as the game plan hasn’t totally changed where he doesn’t know what we’re doing, but we don’t do that."
In other injury news, defensive tackle Gary Gibson (calf) was limited in Friday’s practice.
At the moment, the Bucs (3-9) would hold the No. 5 overall pick in next year's draft, while the Bills (4-8) would hold the No. 9 pick. But Sunday's result could shake that order up.
ESPN.com Bills reporter Mike Rodak and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas examine the matchup.
Yasinskas: Mike, this game features two rookie quarterbacks. Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon and Buffalo's EJ Manuel. Glennon is coming off his worst game of the season against Carolina. But, other than that, he has been fairly efficient. What's your assessment of how Manuel has played so far?
Rodak: Manuel has been up and down, both before his knee injury and after it. The 16th overall pick of the 2013 draft missed four games in the middle of the season after he took a shot to the side of his knee against the Browns in Week 5. The Bills' brass has liked to say that Manuel was on the right track before the injury, but the reality is that he had a completion rate below 50 percent in Weeks 3 and 4 and had three turnovers in that Week 4 win over the Baltimore Ravens. When Manuel came back in Week 10, he had perhaps his worst game of the season, in Pittsburgh. Those have been the low points.
On the other end of the spectrum, Manuel led the Bills on a game-winning drive over the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 and posted a passer rating of 121.9 against the Jets in Week 11. Those have been the high points. But on average, he has been a below-average NFL quarterback to this point, posting a 45.5 QBR for the season.
Pat, the Bucs looked like a disaster about two months ago. Now they have won three of their past four games. What has changed for them?
Yasinskas: The Bucs were in utter disarray at the start of the season. But, aside from Sunday's loss to Carolina, they've played much better over the past month or so. Part of it has to do with Glennon's steady improvement. He has shown signs he can be more than just a game manager. The other thing that has stood out has been how this team has stuck together. Despite some speculative reports to the contrary, coach Greg Schiano never lost the locker room. His players still believe in his system and have been playing hard for him. Finally, the defense, which has a lot of individual talent, has started to click and that coincided with the turnaround.
Speaking of defense, the Bills lead the league with 43 sacks, but they're allowing 25.6 points a game, which ranks 24th. What has gone wrong with this defense?
Rodak: Earlier in the season, much of the problem was with the secondary. The Bills battled through some injuries -- safety Jairus Byrd and cornerback Stephon Gilmore both missed time -- and they got torched by some teams early. But they've been healthy back there for a while now, and the results have been better.
The problem recently has been with the run defense. The Bills rank 24th in the NFL, allowing 121.5 rushing yards per game, and allow 4.18 yards per carry. Some of that has to do with time of possession. The Bills' offense ranks 31st in the NFL, which has put some stress on the defense. More alarmingly for Buffalo, the run defense has gotten worse as the season has gone on. The Bills allowed 5.83 yards per carry to the Jets and 5.03 yards to the Falcons, including two long touchdown runs. There's a lot of talent on this defense, but the consistency isn't there.
Pat, there was a lot of talk this offseason about the moves the Buccaneers made in their secondary. They drafted Johnthan Banks in the second round, traded for Darrelle Revis and signed Dashon Goldson. How have those moves paid off?
Yasinskas: The Bucs went overboard making moves in the secondary because they had the league's worst pass defense in 2012. There has been a noticeable improvement this year. But it hasn't been all roses. Banks has looked good at times, but also has had some rookie moments. Goldson missed two games due to injury and was suspended for another game for an illegal hit. Revis has been solid, although the Bucs brought him along slowly early in the year because he was coming off knee surgery. Overall, this is a decent secondary, but it has yet to approach its true potential.
Mike, what's your read on C.J. Spiller? He seems to be having an up-and-down season to this point. How much has his ankle injury been a factor?
Rodak: He has been a tough one to pin down. This much is for certain: He hasn't lived up to the expectations many on the outside had for him entering this season, and his ankle is a big factor in that. But even after coach Doug Marrone removed Spiller from the injury report about a month ago, things still weren't right. He had disappointing games in Weeks 10 and 11, rushing a combined 21 times for 29 yards. But then, out of the blue, he broke open a 77-yard run Sunday, the longest of his career. He followed that with a 36-yard touchdown run and finished with one of the best games of his career, tallying 149 yards.
Going forward, I'm not really sure what to expect with Spiller. This could be his identity within this offense: a home run hitter who is prone to more strikeouts than the norm.
Pat, speaking of running backs, Bobby Rainey seems to have cooled off since his huge game against Atlanta a few weeks ago. What has happened to the Bucs' running game?
Yasinskas: Rainey rushed for 163 yards against the Falcons, but has averaged just 49 yards in the two games since then. What's happening is that opposing defenses are loading the box to stop the running game. They're daring Glennon to beat them and he hasn't really done that. Until Glennon starts having more luck with the downfield passing game, defenses are going to continue to focus on bottling up the running game.
All too often in the NFL, a player is asked about facing his former team and says it’s no different than any other game.
“It will feel a little strange seeing guys that you grew up with football-wise and even the equipment guys,’’ Lindell told WDAE’s Tom Krasniqi on Thursday. “It’s a little different.’’
That’s understandable. Lindell spent the past 10 seasons kicking for Buffalo. But this game is more than a reunion.
Once again, Lindell went with the honest approach. He has missed four field goal attempts in the past three games.
“It’s pretty disappointing because I felt better on them,’’ Lindell said. “Sometimes, I can look back on my career and I was sick or the laces weren’t turned right or there was weird wind. But I felt better than the results.’’
Lindell realizes this is a results-based business.
“I need to start making some field goals,’’ Lindell said. “I need to make my kicks.’’
They spent big money on cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson and used a second-round draft pick on cornerback Johnthan Banks. That's paying off, even though the numbers from Revis and Goldson don't show it.
The Bucs rank No. 18 against the pass. More importantly, they lead the league with 17 interceptions.
"We addressed it as a need and we went out and got some guys that were truly excellent players and really good leaders," coach Greg Schiano said. "Like anything, when you bring in an elite player to a position room, it raises the level."
Revis has two interceptions and Goldson has one. But Schiano said the real impact of the two veterans can be measured by the leadership they've brought.
"You remember in training camp with Dashon running extra sprints, teaching them man coverage and techniques and stuff," Schiano said. "That to me is what team is and that's what football is, when you have that selfless giving of information. I go back to training camp. It's hot -- get inside, get in the tub and eat your lunch or you can stay out there and help a rookie, who may or may not make the football team. That, to me, is the kind of guys that they are. Darrelle's the same way. Darrelle talks with all the corners and I think really has been a good mentor. We do have a bunch of young guys."
Those young guys have been coming through. Safety Keith Tandy and linebacker Lavonte David are tied for the team lead with three interceptions each. Banks, linebacker Mason Foster and second-year safety Mark Barron each have two interceptions while linebacker Dekoda Watson and cornerback Leonard Johnson have one apiece.
Schiano said that wouldn't have been possible without the additions of Revis and Goldson.
"They've been valuable," Schiano said. "We need them to be. It's a passing league and we need that to continue."
Sunday's opponent is the Buffalo Bills, a team that uses the no-huddle offense and Schiano wants the fans to be loud.
"I had an old line coach of mine who was a high school teacher and during training camp we all lose our voices," Schiano said. "He taught me a trick -- you drink lemon water and it saves your voice. So we'll get our fans some lemon water and get them screaming on Sunday."
A loud crowd can help, but the Bucs are making other preparations for Buffalo's fast-paced offense. Temperatures have been above normal the past two days and that trend is expected to continue through the weekend.
"Today, we were simulating the no-huddle with running a couple of huddles and running guys in and out," Schiano said. "I'm sure we'll have some I.V.'s flowing in the training room. The real feel out there was close to 90, so that will have an impact, I'm sure."
“They were saying that I got knocked out for a second,’’ Revis said. “I’m fine, though.’’
Revis also bruised his chest and shoulder on the same play where he bumped his head. That came as he tried to intercept a pass intended for Steve Smith. Revis left the game after that and did not return.
Revis said he still has some soreness in his shoulder and chest, but said he expects to be able to play in Sunday’s game with Buffalo.
In other injury news, wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) took part in practice on a limited basis. Coach Greg Schiano said he’s optimistic Jackson will be able to play Sunday, but nothing is certain.
“You never know,’’ Schiano said. “When you have a leg injury and you’re a receiver, your legs are your life and you’ve got to be able to run. We’ll see when we give it a go, which I don’t know when that will be – if it will be tomorrow, or Saturday or Sunday. Vince is a pro. He’ll know if he can do it or not, so it will be up to him.’’
Defensive tackle Gary Gibson (calf) and wide receiver Chris Owusu (leg) also were limited in Thursday’s practice.
But the coach didn’t have much to offer. Nicks first came down with a MRSA staph infection in the preseason. He returned to play in Weeks 3 and 4, but a recurrence of the MRSA has sidelined him since then.
“We’re in constant contact with Carl,’’ Schiano said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’d be guessing. There are only four games left so I think pretty soon we’ll know something. He hasn’t played for a while either. As time goes on, we’ve got to figure the thing out.’’
I don’t think the answer is all that complicated and it’s evident what the Bucs should do. They’re not going to the playoffs this season. The Bucs simply need to go ahead and put Nicks on injured reserve. Even if he was ready to play, there’s really no reason to bring back Nicks for the final four games of a lost season.
When he’s healthy, Nicks is considered one of the best guards in the league. The prudent thing for the Bucs to do would be to shut Nicks down for the rest of this season and let him focus on getting back to full health for next season.
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Federal prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges against two men who initiated and recorded a telephone call between two NFL general managers this year and then sold the recording to a website.
In return for the dismissal, Joshua Barber and Nicholas Kaiser must abide by certain conditions for 18 months, U.S. Attorney William Hochul said Wednesday.
Kaiser's attorney, Rodney Personius, said the agreement includes some community service, but other conditions weren't disclosed.
"We're very pleased by the outcome," Personius said.
The charges of intentionally intercepting a wire communication could have carried up to five years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The two 21-year-olds from Plymouth, Mass., didn't plan what happened, Personius said, when they began angling for an NFL tryout for Barber in March.
"On the other hand ... Mr. Kaiser deeply regrets the outcome," the attorney said.
Posing as Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik, Kaiser and Barber dialed Buffalo Bills then-GM Buddy Nix, authorities said. But Barber, a Bills fan, got nervous and hung up when Nix picked up. Barber then dialed Dominik's office. While he was being connected, Nix called Barber's number back, thinking he had been disconnected from Dominik, according to court filings.
Barber used the call merge function on his iPhone to connect the two GMs and put them on speaker phone, allowing Kaiser to record the nearly six-minute conversation.
"Mark, dadgum, son, I've called you back 100 times," Nix tells Dominik on the recording, which Kaiser and Barber sold to Deadspin.com for $200.
"Have you?" asks Dominik.
When it comes to fan voting for the Pro Bowl, the Bucs register barely even a blip on the radar. Early results of the voting, which runs through Dec. 26, came out Wednesday, and the Bucs were barely visible.
Only two players finished in the top 10 at their respective positions – and they were barely in the top 10. Lavonte David is ninth among outside linebackers. Darrelle Revis is ninth among cornerbacks. That’s it. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and wide receiver Vincent Jackson are having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, but they’re not among the top 10.
But there still is hope for the Bucs to get some representation in the Pro Bowl. Fan ballots count for only one-third of the vote. Votes from coaches and players account for the other two-thirds.
“We’re going to run the ball better,’’ Schiano said. “We have to run the ball better.’’
The second part of that might be an understatement. The Bucs are a run-first offense, but they haven’t been running the ball very well in recent weeks. After injuries to running backs Doug Martin and Mike James, the Bucs turned to Bobby Rainey and he responded with a 163-yard game against Atlanta. But the running game has stalled since then.
In the last two games, Rainey has averaged just 49 yards and Schiano said that’s not nearly enough.
“We just can’t do what we’re doing in our run game right now and have a chance to win,’’ Schiano said. “We ran it well against some very good defenses and the last couple of weeks it has not been as good. For us to win, we need to be able to run the football.’’
In injury news out of practice, wide receiver Vincent Jackson was limited with a leg injury. Schiano said the injury is not serious and the team had planned on giving the veteran a light day of practice anyway.
The team signed Danny Lansanah off the New York Jets' practice squad. Lansanah entered the league in 2008 with the Green Bay Packers and had been with New York all this season.
Lansanah and Ka'Lial Glaud give the Bucs some options at Casillas’ spot on the strong side. But the most likely scenario would be to go with Dekoda Watson. Early in the season, Watson was splitting time with Casillas. But the Bucs moved Watson to defensive end and have been using him as a pass-rusher the past few weeks.