McCown has been out since suffering the injury in a Week 3 loss to Atlanta. He began practicing on Monday.
“It’s just been a day-to-day thing, and every day it feels a little bit better,’’ McCown said after Friday's practice. “It was good to get a little more work in this week and get a better feel for it.’’
All indications are that Mike Glennon will start Sunday’s game against Minnesota. But the big question is if McCown will be activated as the backup. McCown said that decision is up to coach Lovie Smith. But McCown said he’d be ready at any time.
“If I were to play at any time, I’d feel confident in playing,’’ McCown said. “Whether that’s this Sunday or a couple of Sundays from now -- any time you go on the field, you better feel confident in playing.’’
McCown, who still was wearing a wrap on his right hand, said he’s had to temper his enthusiasm about getting back on the field to avoid any setbacks.
“It’s hard not to want to push the gas on it and really throw yourself all into it,’’ McCown said. “It’s different than a leg injury or something like that. You can do everything else. You can take your drops. You can do everything but the main thing for a quarterback and that’s to throw. Being able to throw a little bit more this week has been helpful.’’
In other injury news, the Bucs are relatively healthy. Linebacker Brandon Magee (knee) has been ruled out for Sunday. Smith said all the team’s other injured players should be available.
“From the time he was there we always knew he was going to be a superstar in the making," David said. “Great kid. Quiet, humble and a hard worker. I knew him quite a bit.
“I saw him my senior year when I was leaving out and got a chance to watch the spring game. All the old guys came back and we knew he was going to be the next starter at our high school."
David said he’s been impressed with the film he’s seen of Bridgewater this year.
“He’s trying to manage the game, trying to be careful with the football," David said. “He’s making his right reads. He’s just still trying to fit in. He’s doing good so far."
But David and his teammates will be looking to make Bridgewater look bad on Sunday. The defense has been taking a lot of criticism and is ranked last in the league. David, a team captain, said it’s time for the Bucs to get things right on defense.
“We’ve got to fix what we need to fix and that number will go down," David said. “We’ve got a lot of talent and a lot of skill. It’s about putting it all together and that’s what we’re trying to do coming off the bye week."
But I’m going to go against my gut and pick the Bucs. That’s mainly because I think the Vikings are in worse shape than the Bucs. They’re starting rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and they rank last in passing offense. They have some issues on the offensive line that the Bucs might be able to exploit if they actually can generate a pass rush.
I’m not ready to buy into coach Lovie Smith’s talk that his team is improving because the last time we saw the Bucs they were getting shredded by Baltimore. But the Vikings aren’t that good and the Bucs are at home.
One other thing to keep in mind: Going back to his Chicago days, Smith is 6-3 following a bye week, including wins in six of his past seven games after a bye.
My prediction: Buccaneers 24, Vikings 13
Frazier the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tried to pass off Sunday’s game with Minnesota as just another game. Prior to joining the Bucs, Frazier was Minnesota’s head coach for three-plus seasons. Smith, Tampa Bay’s coach, knows there’s extra meaning for Frazier in this game.
“Do you believe that?" Smith said with a laugh. “I think whenever you play a former team -- when I left here and went to St. Louis I was excited to play the Buccaneers and when I was in Chicago and we came back and we played St. Louis and we played Tampa Bay, you’re always excited for that. Leslie knows a lot of people there, he spent a lot of great years there and when you’re competing against your brother or relative or someone close, you always want to win those games."
Frazier is a competitor and there’s no doubt he wants to win against the team that fired him. But Frazier wouldn’t say that when he met with the media Thursday.
“When you’re sitting at 1-5 as a team and with our -- I’m not big into stats -- but more of the 1-5 factor, that overrides everything," Frazier said. “You look at where our division is and you realize that this win could get us started. So that really supersedes everything else. Our being able to get a win on Sunday would be so good for our team and what we’re trying to get accomplished this season.”
Frazier might be the busiest man around One Buccaneer Place this week. Aside from trying to fix a defense that’s ranked last in the league, he also has been playing the role of scout. Since he knows Minnesota’s personnel well, Frazier has been giving scouting reports to Tampa Bay’s coaches and players. But Frazier even tried to downplay that aspect.
“There’s still some guys that I have familiarity with, but they’re doing some different things," Frazier said. "I’ve shared what I could with our coaches and some of our players about some of their personnel. But they’re doing different things than when I was there, so they’re asked to do different things."
"I wouldn’t use that word to describe our guys," Smith said. "But we’re not playing the type of football we need to. We’re not as physical as we need to be is how I would say it -- in all areas. That’s one of the areas we’re working on. Hopefully, in time we won’t be talking about these things."
But it is being talked about because the Bucs rank No. 32 in the league in overall defense.
"If one of our captains says that and he’s out there playing, there’s probably something to it," Smith said. "Right now. But we can change it."
It’s really just a matter of terminology and, in each case, the right guy is using the right words. Smith is soft-spoken and not prone to being publicly critical of his team. It would be out of character for him to use the word "soft" to describe his defense.
But, coming from McCoy, the use of the word makes sense and carries a lot of weight. McCoy is the team’s best player and also one of the most vocal. McCoy is one of the strongest and most respected personalities in the locker room. He can get away with saying the defense has been soft.
That is mostly because he’s right and the entire defense needed to hear it.
The Vikings traded the talented yet mercurial Harvin to Seattle in March 2013 after a season in which he screamed at Frazier on the sideline in November and reportedly had an altercation with the coach before the Vikings put him on injured reserve with a sprained ankle during the middle of their playoff push.
Peterson, on the other hand, was the Vikings' most vocal player in support of Frazier when the coach's job was on the line last December; Peterson said after the Vikings' final two games of the season that he wanted Frazier back, at one point adding he wanted to play for the coach for the rest of his career and saying he planned to share his thoughts with ownership. After the Vikings fired Frazier on Dec. 30, Peterson said there was a time where "I wasn't happy. I wasn't feeling good about being in Minnesota at the end of last season."
The circumstances for both players, of course, have changed significantly in recent weeks. Peterson is awaiting a Dec. 1 trial after pleading not guilty to child abuse charges, and Harvin is preparing for his first game with the New York Jets after the Seahawks traded him last week.
Several media outlets have reported the Bucs have been getting a lot of calls about Jackson. But coach Lovie Smith said Jackson is not being shopped around the league.
“In this business, those things get talked about quite often," Jackson said. "Each and every year there are going to be guys [who] are moved around different teams. I’m not surprised by it. Obviously, I appreciate, I guess, the interest. But I’m happy here in Tampa. I’ve heard nothing here that would suggest that I’m going anywhere. So I’m just going to let that pass on and keep doing my job.
It would be understandable if Jackson, 31, wanted to go to a playoff contender. But Jackson said Thursday he wants to stay in Tampa. Even though the Bucs are off to a 1-5 start, Jackson said he believes things will turn around under Smith, who is in his first season, and the Bucs soon will be winners.
“That’s exactly what I want to do here. I think bringing Lovie in and the staff that he’s brought and his mentality and his goals are aligned with mine and I think a lot of guys in this locker room. I hope for us to start the tradition here of winning football in Tampa Bay. I hope to stay in this uniform and this jersey and help bring that.’’
"Yeah. I mean, if you look out there on tape and you see a bunch of guys sitting on blocks, are you not earning the title of being soft?'' McCoy said.
"I mean, guys get so sensitive around the league, but we have to be men. This is a man's league. This is a man's league, and we're professionals. Guys have issues with criticism. I've been getting criticized since I've been in the NFL, and I don't even feel it anymore. It is what it is.''
McCoy's comments come with the Bucs at 1-5 and ranked last in the league in overall defense.
"I think we're making too many excuses,'' McCoy said. "There's always a reason why this is happening or why that's happening. It has to stop. We just have to say, 'OK, I did wrong, I didn't win that one, I have to win the next one and the one after that.' If you win 70 percent of your battles, you have a shot to win, simple as that."
McCoy, a team captain, said several players have given fiery speeches, but he wants action.
"I've been seeing talking for five years,'' McCoy said. "We've done enough talking; it's time to play, simple as that. Everyone's given speeches. I've given speeches. Lavonte [David] is giving speeches. Vincent Jackson is giving speeches. Josh McCown is giving speeches.
"But it's enough talking. We have to start playing, simple as that. The talking is not going to get it anymore. I've been hearing talking and speeches for five years. It's time to start seeing action, simple as that."
Don't expect any fine offensive displays Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
That's because the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both are struggling on offense. The Vikings (2-5) and Bucs (1-5) are starting young quarterbacks and ranked near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.
The Vikings, led by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, rank No. 29 in overall offense and are last in passing offense. The Bucs have been starting second-year pro Mike Glennon and they're ranked No. 30 in overall offense.
ESPN Vikings reporter Ben Goessling and ESPN Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas preview the matchup:
Yasinskas: Ben, I know the numbers aren't pretty. But has Bridgewater been showing any signs of progress?
Goessling: He has shown some. He hit 12 of his 15 throws after a pair of interceptions in Buffalo on Sunday, and I thought he did a better job of trusting himself to find his receivers downfield than he has in recent weeks. He has looked great at times, especially in the Vikings' win over Atlanta last month, but he's still figuring a lot of things out.
He needs to be better about throwing on target, and he has fallen victim to the same problems that plague many rookies, when he has held the ball a little too long or thrown late because he didn't make up his mind soon enough. But it's important to remember Bridgewater doesn't have Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph and an offensive line that can protect him. The Vikings have given up 27 sacks this season, which is the second-most in the league, and they've forced Bridgewater to run for his life on a number of other occasions.
Speaking of quarterbacks, will Glennon remain the starter or will Josh McCown get the job back now that he's getting healthy?
Yasinskas: Coach Lovie Smith has been coy about his plans. My best guess is Glennon will get at least one more start because McCown returned to practice only this week and was out for more than a month. I think Glennon has played well enough to be the full-time starter, but I'm not sure Smith sees it that way. McCown was Smith's hand-picked quarterback and the two have history together from their Chicago days. Smith's history has shown he prefers to go with veterans. Back in Chicago, he once benched Kyle Orton, who was playing well, as soon as Rex Grossman got healthy. It wouldn't surprise me if Smith goes back to McCown.
You mentioned Minnesota's offensive line. I know it has been banged up. Will it be any healthier this week, and can it at least give Bridgewater some protection against a Tampa Bay pass rush that hasn't been good?
Goessling: It's hard to say at this point if it will be healthier. Guard Vladimir Ducasse is optimistic about his chances to play after injuring his knee on Sunday, but John Sullivan is still going through the concussion protocol, and his loss would be a big one. He's the Vikings' most reliable blocker, and does plenty to help Bridgewater set protections.
The biggest problem, though, has been left tackle Matt Kalil, who got beat again several times on Sunday and has struggled in pass protection all season. Kalil was the No. 4 pick in the draft in 2012 and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but got hurt last year and hasn't looked like the same guy. The Vikings were able to protect Bridgewater effectively against Atlanta, another team with an underwhelming pass rush, so I'd expect they'll fare better this week than they have against Detroit and Buffalo.
Shifting to the defensive side of the ball, how has the Vikings' old coach, Leslie Frazier, fared as the coordinator? The Bucs have obviously been shredded on defense; how much of that do you think is Frazier and Smith's old Cover 2 scheme and how much is personnel?
Yaskinsas: Tampa Bay ranks last in total defense and also is No. 32 in pass defense. That's shocking since Smith and Frazier are supposed to be defensive gurus. I think this team has good defensive personnel, especially with tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. But the pass rush has been non-existent, and that has taken a toll on the secondary. The main problem might be Smith's stubbornness. He's sticking with the Tampa 2 scheme even though it looks like it might be outdated. I'm not saying he should totally ditch the Tampa 2, but it might be wise -- and productive -- to mix in some man coverage at times.
The Vikings lost a last-minute game against Buffalo last week. That reminded me that the Vikings lost a lot of games in the final minutes last season. Is there some sort of flaw there or is this just a young team that needs to learn how to win?
Goessling: They believe it's the latter. The approach the Vikings took on the final drive on Sunday didn't look like what they did last year, when they sat back in coverage on a lot of those final drives. They were aggressive with their fronts, blitzing Orton four times on the drive and sacking him twice. But there were breakdowns that probably can be traced to inexperience. Josh Robinson needed to reroute Sammy Watkins when he pressed him on third-and-12, Xavier Rhodes misplayed Watkins' game-winning touchdown, and first-year coach Mike Zimmer said he probably should have called a timeout before a fourth-and-20 play -- like Frazier did in a couple games last season -- to get the defense settled. The Vikings gave up a first down there after Chad Greenway was trying to get Captain Munnerlyn in the right spot in a no-huddle situation. Greenway had his head turned at the snap and didn't get deep enough in coverage to keep Orton from hitting Scott Chandler for a first down.
The Vikings are young in the secondary, especially, and I think that showed up Sunday, but I continue to see progress in what they're doing. They have Pro Bowl-caliber players in Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith, and Rhodes has continued to improve as a corner. It'll take another year of player acquisitions, but they're headed in the right direction.
To wrap this up, why has the Buccaneers' ground game struggled so much? It might be a function of playing from behind as much as they have, but it seems like they've struggled to run the ball in closer games, too. What do you think the problem has been there?
Yasinskas: It's true they have had to abandon the running game at times because they've fallen so far behind. But even at the start of games, they've struggled to run the ball. That's puzzling because they have a rebuilt offensive line and running back Doug Martin is healthy after missing much of last season with a shoulder injury. I put the majority of the blame on the offensive line. But I also put some blame on Martin. He is averaging only 2.9 yards per carry. His backup, Bobby Rainey, is averaging 4.9 yards a carry. Martin needs to make more out of his opportunities.
Smith said he was disappointed in fullback Jorvorskie Lane and defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers, who each were suspended for the next two games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
“For both guys, they hurt our football team by not being available this week and next," Smith said.
Smith said he’ll welcome both players back when they’re eligible. Smith said he doesn’t think the Bucs have a problem with performance-enhancing substances.
“Everybody in the world is trying to lose weight," Smith said. “My point is you make mistakes. Everybody tries to lose weight. Do I think it’s a major problem? No."
But Smith said he believes Bowers and Lane knew what they were doing was against league rules.
“Even if you’re educated, people make mistakes all ways," Smith said. “And they make bad decisions all ways. I think they knew what they were doing and they chose to go that route."
"I don’t see it that way at all," Smith said. "We have two quarterbacks. You might say that, but I don’t say that at all. Guys know where they stand in the rotation that we have."
So what’s the rotation? Smith wouldn’t say.
Josh McCown, who started the first three games before suffering a thumb injury, has returned to practice this week. But the signs are pointing toward Mike Glennon, who's been playing in McCown's absence, getting the start Sunday against Minnesota. But that may be only because McCown isn’t 100 percent healthy.
"We’ll see how the week goes," Smith said. "As soon as Josh, we feel like he’s fully ready to play, he’ll have a role with us."
But will that role be as the starter or as the backup and mentor to Glennon? Smith danced around that question several times.
"We don’t have a quarterback controversy," Smith said. "Our quarterback position has been strengthened with Josh coming back."
All indications point toward Glennon remaining the starter -- at least for now. Smith simply might be borrowing time. I think he’ll start Glennon against Minnesota and see how things go. When McCown is fully healthy, that’s when Smith truly may have a controversy on his hands.
Glennon went first among the quarterbacks during the portion of practice that was open to the media. He also spoke to the media before practice. Those are pretty good indications Glennon will remain the starter, at least for now. I don't think the Bucs would have trotted Glennon out for the media if he is not still the starter.
It also should be pointed out that Glennon has played well at times and the starting job could remain his even when McCown is fully healthy.
“It’s good to see [McCown] get back," Glennon said. “But it doesn’t change my mindset. My mindset is to win games. No matter if he’s back or not, that’s what I’m prepared to do. I’m going to prepare just like I have every week, just to be the guy. I don’t think anything in my preparation is going to change."
The Bucs have avoided talk of a quarterback controversy and that might be due in large part to the way McCown has handled the situation.
“Having a guy of his personality and his intentions, yeah, he wants to play but he wants to see this team succeed," Glennon said. “He wants to help those around him. That’s just a credit to him as a person. I see it and guys see it, how much he wants to just help. It’s probably a better question for him. But I think he just wants to see us win. It’s been great to have him. It might be different if he had a different personality, but he’s been nothing but helpful to me. We’re definitely lucky to have a guy with his personality."