Will New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul play Sunday? Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith is just as curious as everyone else. Smith even went fishing for information during a Wednesday conference call with New York media, asking "Is he (Pierre-Paul) practicing today?"
Smith was informed that Pierre-Paul was, indeed, practicing.
"We just have to assume that he will be able to play. Of course, he's a great player. Each week if a guy is practicing at all and there's a chance of them playing, we have to prepare that way," Smith said. "As far as preparation, he's one of the best defensive players in the league when he's playing, so we'll have a plan for it and just do the best we can."
If he plays, will the Bucs do anything special to test Pierre-Paul and the impact his damaged hand will have on how he plays? Smith, of course, wasn't sharing any of his secrets.
"We're close, but we're not that close where I can give you that type of information," Smith told a reporter. "They're going to line 11 guys up over there and you have to test all of them from time to time, different times of the game. I assume if a player is on the field, he's good to go, he's healthy and ready to go, so we'll kind of treat it that way. We have a plan to attack most positions, all positions, I would say."
Here are a few other takeaways from Smith's press conference previewing Sunday's game against the Giants.
On the high number of rookies the Bucs are playing
"In an ideal world, you would like to play all veteran players, but I just think it's hard to do nowadays. Looking at it the other way, we really like those rookies that played. I mean, it's a talented group. This late in the season, a little bit, you don't really talk about them being rookies. They've been around, they know what's expected of them, and they've been stepping up to the plate. Sometimes when you put a player in and maybe you don't think he's ready to go, he is ready to go, so we've been pleased with how our young guys have stepped up to the plate."
On the development of Jameis Winston
"Of course, we liked him a lot. I got a chance to spend a lot of time with him and evaluate him and all that, so coming in, we had high hopes. We knew he would be a great leader. In order to play quarterback in the league, you need to be able to know the football and make good, sound decisions. We knew all of that, but he came in with the right approach to being a rookie, learned everything, but for us, we knew the rookie quarterback, and rookie quarterbacks make rookie mistakes. We knew we would live with that but thought he would learn from it and that's what he's done. He's had a couple tough games, but the last three games he's really protected the football and just learning to be a good quarterback in the NFL. I just like the progress he's made and it's just the tip of the iceberg. We knew he could throw the ball, but he's showed more mobility, I would say, as far as scrambling around, buying time, and when he needs to run it, he can do that."
On Doug Martin and the Bucs' improved running game
"I think we've always had a commitment to the run, but I think if you're talking about having success with your running game, you have to talk about the offensive line and they've done a good job....The offensive line is opening holes for Doug and from there, though, a good running back is what you do after you get to that second level. If there's a free guy in the hole, can you make him miss? Doug has done that. He's been a good runner inside the tackles, made guys miss in the open field, and just been a complete running back. There's definitely a commitment to the run with our team."