Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs notes: Rivalry brewing with Saints
TAMPA - NFL coaches will tell anyone within earshot that each regular-season game counts the same. It's difficult to make that argument this week. As the Buccaneers prepare for Sunday's matchup at New Orleans, both clubs have ramped up the rhetoric before this showdown for first place in the NFC South. "They're the best of the best,'' Bucs CB Aqib Talib said of the high-powered Saints. "If you don't like playing against the best, you're in the wrong business. Drew Brees has tremendous confidence in his arm, his offensive coordinator and his receivers. That team's got weapons out the gate.''New Orleans has dropped consecutive home games against Tampa Bay and the Bucs beat the Saints 26-20 three weeks ago at Raymond James Stadium. In this case, familiarity has bred a bit of contempt. "It's a division game, so there's not really that much they don't know about us or we don't know about them,'' Saints safety Roman Harper told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We're going to be juiced up. We owe these guys.'' The importance of Sunday's game also has generated some gamesmanship concerning the injury report. Bucs coach Raheem Morris said QB Josh Freeman (right thumb) was added to the injury list because the Saints called the league to complain about Freeman's omission from Wednesday's report. "If I put guys on the list that tape up every day, I'd have all 53 players on my football team,'' said Morris. "It is what it is.'' Freeman did not appear to be in any discomfort Friday morning as he warmed up in practice with some passes deep downfield. S Tanard Jackson (hamstring) returned to the practice field Friday after a day off and is expected to play. DT Frank Okam (calf) and G Jeremy Zuttah (knee) will not dress for Sunday's game, with Ted Larsen making his second consecutive start at left guard. Rookie RB Mark Ingram (heel) is out for the Saints and veteran MLB Jonathan Vilma (knee), who has registered three of his team's four fumble recoveries, is listed as questionable. Bye and bye If the Bucs suffer a setback at the Superdome, they will return home to face the dangerous Texans having lost three of four games after a 3-1 start. "The bye week came at a good time for us,'' said Bucs LT Donald Penn, who will renew his twice-a-year rivalry against DE Will Smith. "I was watching a game last Sunday and I wanted to play. I can't wait to get it going again and you know the Superdome will be rocking.'' With the Saints coming off an embarrassing loss against the previously winless Rams, Tampa Bay rookie MLB Mason Foster anticipates a huge challenge. "They're going to give us their best shot,'' Foster said. "I'm sure they're looking to bounce back from last week.'' Extra points The Bucs activated long snapper Andrew Economos from the Reserve/Non-Football injury list and waived S David Sims. Economos suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in the off season. …Saints P Thomas Morstead leads the league with 33 touchbacks on kickoffs. …Tampa Bay's Michael Koenen, signed as a free agent from Atlanta this summer, has placed 15 of his 35 punts inside the 20. …After yielding six sacks to St. Louis last week, including three by left DE Chris Long, the Saints should get a boost Sunday with the expected return of RT Zach Strief, who has missed the past five games with a knee sprain.