TAMPA, Fla. You might think that the Tampa Bay Bucs would benefit from have a little inside knowledge regarding the tendencies and even the playbook of the New York Giants heading into Sundays Week Two game at MetLife Stadium.
After all, Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan served on the Giants staff as quarterbacks coach for Eli Manning the past two seasons and oversaw their wide receivers prior to that. Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan held the same job with New York in 2009, coaching the teams linebackers during four previous seasons.
And Bucs head coach Greg Schiano was a New Jersey fixture as the guidance force in the renaissance of Rutgers University football. Surely, he must have picked up some helpful insights about his next opponent while working in the land of the Giants.
Think again, insisted Schiano Wednesday as his 1-0 Bucs began full-scale preparations to face the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Mike yeah, that helps, he began. Bills a while ago, so yeah, maybe a little bit. But me being there, absolutely zero. I hardly had enough time to do my job. I couldnt watch them.
Truth be told, Schiano said he doesnt expect Sullivans recent ties with the Giants to create any tangible advantage, either.
There are certain things he can help with, but were doing a lot of things they did, too, Schiano said. So they know it. Their whole staff knows it. Theyve been doing it for years, so theres a lot of offensive things (in common). Like I said the other day, there will be some subplots here with guys knowing stuff, but at the end of the day, its players. What can you convey to your players, and what can they do?
There was one primary subplot swirling at One Buc Place on Wednesday as the team came back to work after Tuesday off, savoring their surprisingly dominant 16-10 victory to kick off the Schiano Era: the mystery ailment involving tailback LeGarrette Blount.
Last years No. 1 running back, as youll recall, appeared to be shaken up on a one-yard gain in the second quarter but wasnt listed as an injury during or after a game in which he carried only three times. Later, he bolted from the field and the locker room, giving reporters no chance to interview him.
Blount, according to general manager Mark Dominik, underwent an MRI of his back and neck to determine what might be bothering him and did not participate in workouts Wednesday. Dominic dismissed any rumblings that a concussion might be involved
I will say this, he obviously took a hit in the game and went down, as we all saw, he said prior to practice. I can categorically confirm it has nothing to do with concussions whatsoever. So theres nothing there. Theres nothing concussion-related with LeGarrette Blount. However, were going to do our due diligence on our players to make sure player safety is No. 1 the most important thing.
Blount, as Dominic noted, was cleared to go back into the game Sunday after getting hit and coming off the field. But he never did return, as rookie tailback Doug Martin, who won the starting job in camp, powered his way to a sensational debut of 95 yards on 24 carries.
He did not play due to circumstances, not because of injury or anything like that, Dominik continued. As its gone on, we always take time to monitor any player that has gone down. We go back, look at everything thats happened with the player and what were doing right now is hes seeing all the correct people we think he needs to see. And that includes were doing an MRI with his neck and back.
All those things are going through. hopefully well get an answer in the next 24 hours, and be able to update you (on) what is going on. If hes cleared, hell be out there. If theres something else, then well certainly fill you in on whats going on.
Schiano reiterated those words when he addressed the media several hours later, adding that when things dont add up, you keep digging. And Im glad we did, because theres something that clearly has to be investigated, and thats what were doing.
Schianos intent has been to use Blount in relief of Martin, hoping his bruising style of running as a 6-foot, 247-pound tailback would be a nice change of pace from the compact, 5-9, 235-pound Martin. In some ways, that would mirror the Giants template of recent seasons with the smaller Ahmad Bradshaw and big man Brandon Jacobs (now with the 49ers).
The plan is to play them off each other, Schiano said. Now, we have to wait and see. That plan might be altered. Im disappointed about that.
The new Bucs coach stressed that Blounts attitude has not been a problem since losing his starting job to Martin.
Hes been good, Schiano said. There isnt any problem with LeGarrette. Certainly hes a competitor. So as Doug assumed the position as No. 1 back, hes not jumping up and down, saying, Oh, good for him. Hes a team guy.
While the Bucs wait to learn with Blount will be available Sunday, theyve turned their focus to the daunting task of facing one of the NFLs best quarterbacks for the second straight week.
Sheridans defense kept the heat on Carolinas Cam Newton impressively at Raymond James Stadium, but New Yorks Eli Manning presents a new challenge as one of the games great line-of-scrimmage improvisers with a pair of Super Bowl championship rings to show for his efforts.
Eli called himself an elite quarterback last year, and then he went out there and proved it, said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, coming off a sensational game against the Panthers. We have to know that he is an elite quarterback and that he can make plays. At the moment, he is the best two-minute, fourth-quarter quarterback in the league. So we have to do everything we can to keep from getting in that situation.
"And if we do get in that situation, we have to do all we can to prevent him from being who he is. Because everything runs through him.
Sheridan knows that Manning and the Giants offense will present a formidable challenge, even with Sullivans recent experience with the unit.
There might be some perception that theres a distinct advantage from a knowledge standpoint because Mikes here, he said. But they do such an outstanding job and Eli does in particular of checking plays at the line of scrimmage, he said. So unless youre really able to confuse them with different looks, hes going to get them out of bad plays and put them into good plays. Yeah, theres some familiarity with what they do but Eli is probably as good as anybody in the NFL as far getting the clock down and making you show what youre going to do, and him putting in the best play.
In the end, knowing the traits of Manning and his teammates will help a lot more than any inside knowledge of the Giants schemes and plays.
Its more the personnel thats still there from when Mike and I were there, Sheridan said. Its not so much the scheme. Youre basing your plans on what theyve shown on videotape last year, in the preseason and in their opener.
For the record, Jon Gruden was still head coach of the Bucs the last time the two teams met, with the Giants shutting out Tampa Bay 24-0 Sept. 27, 2009. Now, the Bucs head north with a better record, at least for the moment, than the Giants, who lost their opener 24-17 last week in Dallas.
Even with a far more experienced squad, New York head coach Tom Coughlin isnt taking this weeks matchup lightly.
Ive watched the preseason games and Ive watched this game, and I think Tampa Bay plays hard. They certainly have taken well to the new staff, he said by conference call Wednesday.
Theyre rushing the ball and doing a nice job taking care of it not turning it over and have cut down on penalties. Their offensive line is doing a good. Theyve added some fine players through free agency and their three top rookies are all starters. Defensively, theyre playing very well. Giving up 10 yards rushing to the team that was seventh in the league last year, thats a pretty good job. Their special teams are very good and fast. So the first win of the year was impressive.
And a far different Bucs team than the one the NFL saw in 2011. Coughlin doesnt need any inside knowledge to recognize that.
NOTES: Ronde Barber sure knows how to make the most out of celebration. In a game that honored him for his 200th straight start as a defensive back, he played a key role in helping the defense shut down high-powered Carolina in a 16-10 upset. For his efforts, Barber was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week One on Wednesday. It was the 10th time in his career, including the postseason, that Barber earned Player of the Week honors.
His final stats Sunday: five tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, one interception and two passes defensed. Though hes been converted to free safety, Barber started his 200th game at right corner, giving him the longest streak at cornerback in NFL history and the longest active consecutive start streak among all players in the NFL. The interception marked the 44th of Barber's career and ranks as the most in team history. The sack was his 28th, the most ever for a cornerback in NFL history.
He is also the only player in NFL history to record 40 or more interceptions and 25 or more sacks in a career. Barber has the most Player of the Week awards in team history (a Buccaneer was haw won the honor 36 times) and has earned Player of the Week honors at least once in nine of his 16 seasons in the league.
Offensive guard Carl Nicks was limited in practice Wednesday due to a toe injury sustained last Sunday but insists hell be good to go for Sundays game. Wide receiver Arrelious Benn (knee) participated fully, as did cornerback E.J. Biggers (foot) and corner Antony Gaitor (hamstring).