Deep Threat 'Out for Sure' Vs. Redskins
TAMPA, Jan. 2 -- Tampa Bay wide receiver Michael Clayton, who caught 80 passes as a rookie last season and has led the Buccaneers in receiving in 11 games over the last two years, was ruled out for Saturday's first-round playoff game against the Washington Redskins because of a turf toe injury he suffered two weeks ago in a victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Clayton missed the Bucs' regular season finale, a 27-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, and Coach Jon Gruden said Monday that Clayton was "out for sure" against the Redskins. A deep threat who has 23 career receptions for 20 or more yards and five of 40 or more yards, Clayton had 32 catches this season, averaging 11.6 yards per reception.
Clayton also missed the Bucs' Nov. 13 game against the Redskins with a leg injury. He likely will be replaced by veteran Ike Hilliard, who ranks third on the Bucs with 35 catches, 24 of them resulting in first downs. Third-year wide receiver Edell Shepherd also should play Saturday.
Shepherd had his first career touchdown in the Bucs' 36-35 victory over the Redskins on Nov. 13, a 30-yard catch that preceded Mike Alstott's two-point conversion run with 58 seconds remaining. Shepherd also is expected to continue in his season-long role on kickoff returns.
Gruden also said Monday that starting safety Jermaine Phillips, who sprained his knee two weeks ago against Atlanta and did not play against the Saints, is expected to start against the Redskins. On Sunday, his replacement, Will Allen, intercepted his third pass of the season in the first quarter. "I won't say that Jermaine is probable or questionable," Gruden said. "I'll just say that rumors are very good that he'll be back for this game."
Impressed, Yes; Surprised, No
The Bucs finished the season as the top-rated defense in the NFL, the 10th straight season in which they've had a top 10 defense under veteran defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. They finished sixth against the rush, a dramatic improvement over 2004, when they were 19th, and also were sixth against the pass.
Kiffin, 65, said he has been impressed but hardly surprised by the Redskins' late-season offensive resurgence and credited the turnaround to the team's coaches.
"They've got a great staff," Kiffin said. "They've just got so many Super Bowl rings sitting around that office. A lot of those guys -- Joe Bugel, Don Breaux -- weren't all out for 12 years like Joe [Gibbs] was. You have good coaches and a team gets better. You have two-a-days, four preseason games, 16 regular season games: If you've got a good coaching staff you'll get better, if you don't you're sure wasting a lot of time."
Odds and Ends
The Bucs were given Monday off and will resume practice on Tuesday. . . . Simeon Rice's two sacks against the Saints gave him 14 for the year and marked his third multiple-sack game of the season and the 33rd of his 10-year career, which is tops in the league among active players.
By the Numbers
Receiving yards for Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway. The total is the second best in team history, surpassing Keyshawn Johnson's 1,266 yards in 2001. Mark Carrier is the team's all-time leader with 1,422 in 1989.
-- Leonard Shapiro