TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway is raring to go. All he needs is a nod from coach Jon Gruden.
The speedy receiver said Wednesday he's ready to play Sunday in the season opener at New Orleans. Nevertheless, he stressed the call will be made by Gruden, who held the 14th-year pro out of training camp, as well as all four preseason games, because of a groin injury.
"The zookeeper posts the times the white tiger gets to eat," Galloway said. "I'm hoping he's going to post one this Sunday and let me eat."
Gruden was noncommital after practice, but it sounded like there's a good chance Galloway will play.
"I expect him to, but again we have a couple more days to go," the coach said. "We'll see how he feels. He's getting better."
The 36-year-old Galloway has had more than 1,000 yards receiving each of the past three years, including 57 receptions for 1,014 yards and six touchdowns in 2007.
But last season ended on a sour note when he had just one reception for 9 yards before leaving the Bucs' first-round loss to the New York Giants because of a shoulder injury. None of the team's other receivers were able to take up the slack, and the offense stalled.
"That game is a game that's made it tough to sleep some nights. That would be a dream situation to go into healthy. Unfortunately, it didn't happen," said Galloway, who spent most of the offseason strengthening his shoulder only to be shut down for camp because of the sore groin.
"I wouldn't say it's back to where it used to be," he said of the shoulder. "But at the same time, it's functional. It's just something I'm going to have to deal with."
Gruden has given Galloway plenty of rest during preseason the past two years. But this is the first time he did not participate in any full-squad workouts during the team's three-week stay at Disney World for training camp.
He said teammates, who often practiced twice a day, were supportive while he was limited to individual drills.
"The funny part is these guys in the locker room are more understanding than coach is," Galloway said.
"These guys sort of smirk and laugh, and they say as long as you're ready on Sunday, then everything is OK. Now the zoopkeeper is a little different. He likes to see you out there."
Galloway has a history of playing well against New Orleans and joked that if he were the Saints he'd take note of what he's done during the preseason and "probably relax a little and think there's not much to worry about."
The truth is no one in Tampa Bay's offense has had more success against Saints than Galloway, who has three 100-yard games and a fourth in which had 97 yards worth of receptions against over the past two seasons.
"Everyone's excited, including me," Galloway said. "Preseason is one of those things that we know is necessary. But when it's over everybody says, `Man, I'm glad that thing is over. I'm getting ready to play."'
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press