By Max Luckan
In what will be their final game of the 2012 regular season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to pull off an upset over the Atlanta Falcons, who have already clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This means that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will have to go through Atlanta. While the Bucs won’t have a chance to play spoiler because of this, they will be able to use this game as a way to finish off their season, which has turned into a disappointment. But the Falcons don’t plan on resting their starters, so they will have to play their best against Atlanta.
Cornerback Eric Wright, who was suspended four games for testing positive for Adderall, a stimulant banned by the NFL, was back at practice on Wednesday and seemed pleased to be back with his teammates, but he’s well aware that he let his teammates and the organization down. The Bucs struggled in his absence, losing all four games that he missed.
“Yeah, absolutely, I apologize to the team as well as the organization and the Glazer family,” Wright said Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “It hurt me a lot to let the team down. It’s just an unfortunate situation and I’m looking forward to moving forward from here.”
The Bucs, of course, have the worst pass defense in the league and they’ve struggled in the secondary all season long. Wright says it was tough to miss those four games. “It was extremely difficult,” Wright said. “I mean being at home, being away from my teammates and my coaches. You work all offseason and all preseason to get to this point and to have to sit down and sit out for four games really hurt.”
Wright was actually confident that he would win his appeal, but he didn’t file the necessary paperwork that would have allowed him to use Adderall, which is typically used to treat ADHD. The Bucs have Wright back at practice, but head coach Greg Schiano said that he has to determine if Wright is in “football shape” before making a final decision on his status for Sunday’s game against the Falcons.
Cornerback E.J. Biggers, tight end Nate Byham, tight end Dallas Clark, and center Jeremy Zuttah all missed practice on Wednesday for the Bucs, and guard Roger Allen was limited because of an ankle injury.
The Bucs know that the Falcons have essentially nothing to play for on Sunday, but they still plan on playing to win, as do the Bucs. Schiano knows that the Bucs will have to slow down the passing attack, which is a challenge because of the weak secondary.
With Wright potentially available, the Bucs should be able to lock down either Roddy White or Julio Jones, but that, of course, leaves one of the two receivers open, nonetheless. Add tight end Tony Gonzalez to the mix, and the Bucs will have their hands full again.
Falcons head coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they are going to “play the game to win.”
That’s bad news for the Bucs, but if they are looking to salvage their season any way they can, a win against one of the best teams in the NFC and a fierce division rival can definitely do the trick.
For more Local Football Bloggers, and the latest Buccaneers news and analysis, see CBS Sports Tampa.
Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.