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Bucs finally play after long layoff

(TSX / STATS) -- TAMPA -- By the time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tee it up against the Chicago Bears in Sunday's 1 p.m. game at Raymond James Stadium, it would've been 22 days since any of the starters played in a football game. In fact, prior to this week, the team had only practiced twice in 15 days.

To say the Bucs will be a bit rusty is an understatement. But they have no choice but to be ready.

Hurricane Irma forced the Bucs players, coaches and staff members to scatter last week. Fortunately, there was no catastrophic damage done to the Tampa area and the team is eager for their home opener.

"Obviously, it's great to get back to thinking a little bit about football," Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "We know that a lot of people got it worse than we did and we were very fortunate here to have as little misfortune in this area as we did in some other parts of the state and the region. But, we're thinking about those people. We are thinking about those still hurting (and) still inconvenienced, but at the same time it's good to get back to football."

It was a trying weekend for the Bucs. Not only did they not know the path of Irma, they had to make arrangements to practice and possibly play at the University of Minnesota.

Koetter spent Sunday in his office watching the Bears narrowly lose to the Falcons while keeping one eye on the weather.

"Well you have mixed emotions at that time because obviously we didn't know what was going to happen here and happen with the hurricane in general," Koetter said. "At the same time, there's other games going on and you're watching those games and your body is sort of telling you that you guys should be out there playing too. All that is stuff that we have no control over. We just have to worry about what we do control."

The Bucs will also be facing Mike Glennon, their former quarterback.

Said Koetter: "I think it probably does add a little bit of mystery on both sides. Mike is a very, very sharp guy. I'm sure he remembers a lot of stuff. Mike is a note taker; I'm sure he remembers a lot of stuff about our defense. At the same time, we know Mike and we know his strengths and weaknesses as well."

Sunday's game should be an entertaining one. The Bucs added weapons for quarterback Jameis Winston with receivers DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and tight end O.J. Howard.

But defensively, Tampa Bay will have to stop the run. Running back Jordan Howard rushed for over 100 yards in a loss to the Bucs a year ago and the team has added rookie Tarik Cohen.

"Very impressive, both of their backs," Koetter said. "I know everybody is on the rookie's bandwagon this week -- and rightfully so -- but let's not forget (Jordan) Howard was the second leading rusher in the league. They've got a really nice one-two punch. We showed the team some clips on both guys and I think most teams in the NFL would like the one-two punch that they had last week."

Despite the long layoff, the Bucs need to get off to a good start. They were 4-4 at RJS last season.

"You can't make excuses," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "You can't have distractions. They're only excuses if you make them and they're only distractions if you let them be. Every week in the NFL there's going to be potential distractions. Somebody is going to be hurt, we don't know if somebody is playing on our team, or not playing on their team so to me, it's only what you make of it and I think our guys have done a great job in their attitude when they've come back. We had great meetings this morning on the defensive side and we just had a good walk-through."

--Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was asked if he thought the Bucs would be too hyped, since most starters will have not played in a game for 22 days when they meet the Bears Sunday.

"Take a deep breath," McCoy said. "We're professionals. A lot of guys in this locker room make a lot of money to be poised. There's a lot of guys in this locker room that make a lot of money to not let that get to you. There's a lot of coaches upstairs that make a lot of money to not have excuses as well."

--Bucs tight end Cameron Brate grew up an hour west of Chicago in Naperville, Ill., and for the third year in a row, he's trying to convince friends and family back home to stop rooting for the Bears and pull for him against his childhood team.

Brate has had good success against the Bears -- he had a 46-yard catch against Chicago in 2015, and had a career-best seven catches for 84 yards and a touchdown in last year's 36-10 win in Tampa.

--Bucs long snapper Garrison Sanborn was born and raised in Tampa, but as Hurricane Irma approached, he decided the safest place to keep his family was at One Buc Place, where they stayed Sunday night as the storm passed.

"With the fear that the storm surge was going to be crazy, we just spent the night here in the facility," said Sanborn, who lives on Harbor Island. "I had my son set up in his little Pack 'n Play in the receivers room. We were all set up all over the place."

Sanborn's 7-month-old son Jameson was there in one meeting room, and his 7-year-old daughter Julianne in the linebackers room, while Sanborn and his wife Tara stayed in the defensive line room. He heard officials saying they didn't need to go far to find safe shelter, so he took the Bucs up on their offer.

--"There were days that I would come off the field and think, 'Man, we aren't going to be able to stop anybody -- Mike just cut us up in practice today.' Mike is a really fine thrower of the football." -- Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith on Bears quarterback Mike Glennon.



--LB Devante Bond has a knee injury and was limited in practice Wednesday.

--RB Jacquizz Rodgers should get the bulk of the rushing load Sunday with Doug Martin serving a three-game suspension.

--T Demar Dotson, who had a groin strain during the preseason, said he benefited from the bye week after the season opener vs. Miami was postponed until Nov. 19.

--D.J. Ward had only his second practice Wednesday since joining the team last week and it's unknown how much he will play Sunday against the Bears.

Updated September 13, 2017

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