Wyche disdains talk of next year
Still a couple of days shy of Thanksgiving, Sam Wyche found himself peppered Monday with questions regarding his new year plans. New year, as in next year. As in, is it time to start thinking about it?

In the aftermath of Tampa Bay's sixth loss in seven games - a 29-14 defeat at San Diego - Wyche said the day to start making 1993 resolutions has yet to arrive. Despite needing to play winning football (3-2) from here on merely to avoid the franchise's 10th consecutive double-digit loss season, Wyche said the story of his rookie season with Tampa Bay remains a work-in-progress.

"We're not looking to next year at all," said Wyche, whose Bucs dropped to 4-7 Sunday. "We're not going to make wholesale changes and abandon this season. It's a long way from being over. We're only about two-thirds of the way through the season. There's a lot to be accomplished this year. We can still come out of this one feeling pretty good about this season."

The Bucs, however, came out of the loss to the Chargers feeling bruised and battered. Especially the defensive front seven, where linebackers Keith McCants (shoulder, knee), Calvin Tiggle (ankle), and Reggie Burnette (ribs), and linemen Ray Seals (knee), Santana Dotson (ankle), and Mark Wheeler (ankle) are hurting. The most serious of that bunch figure to be Seals and Tiggle, both of whom by the end of the week could find themselves on injured reserve and out for the rest of the season. Tiggle reinjured his chronically sore ankle Sunday, and Seals will be rested and evaluated to determine whether arthroscopic surgery is necessary.

"We're just banged up on the defensive line, and now we've lost the two (middle) linebackers," Wyche said. "We're going to bring in a guy or two if these defensive linemen can't play. We haven't said too much, but now it's getting a little obvious. (Opponents) will see it on film. There's no sense trying to hide it."

Also a little worse for wear following the trip to San Diego is starting quarterback Vinny Testaverde, who hyperextended his left knee while absorbing one of the season-high six sacks allowed by Tampa Bay. Testaverde, who played the entire game, is questionable for practice Wednesday but should be ready for Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers (5-6) in Milwaukee. The question is, are the Bucs ready to salvage a season that has slipped away in a hauntingly familiar pattern?

"The way we're looking at this ballgame is it's a fight this week for second place in the (NFC) Central Division," said Wyche, seizing every chance to accentuate the positive. "If we're trying to measure some benchmarks here, that's moving from last to second. That's progress at least. It may not be where we want to go, but it's progress. Those are benchmarks at least that give us an idea where we are."

Where the Bucs are, Wyche pointed out, is in the playoff chase, however slim their mathematical thread. "We've been very deliberate in making sure that we've kept in mind the overall picture of what this team could do," Wyche said. "When you've got a team that hasn't been to the playoffs, that seems like an unreal part of the season. We wanted to make it a reality to them, even if it was not the immediate goal, it had to be an end-of-the-season goal for us. We know 7-9 won't get us to the playoffs, but 8-8 actually might. Nine-and seven I think would."

Don Banks, The St.Petersburg Times 1992