Saints start preparing for Bucs

Updated: December 3, 2003, 7:11 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Saints hit the practice field Wednesday to begin preparation for Sunday's game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Bucs (5-7) are the first of three teams left on the schedule with losing records.

Despite the losses, coach Jim Haslett expects a tough game against Tampa Bay.

"It is going to be a physical, hard-fought game," Haslett said. "We know that. I think the team that makes the least turnovers and mistakes is going to win."

New Orleans will face the New York Giants (4-8) the following week. They travel to Jacksonville (3-9) after that. The Saints close out the season Dec. 28 against Dallas (8-4).

A familiar face was back on the field Wednesday.

Tight end David Sloan, who was released in the final cut after training camp this summer, was signed to beef up a position hit by injuries. Ernie Caldwell was already on injured reserve, then Zachary Hilton injured his left knee in last week's game.

"We thought that we needed to bring three tight ends into the game," Haslett said. "Dave knows the offense. If it weren't for Zach, then Dave would have been here. We decided to keep the young guy around as our fourth."

The Saints released Henry Ford to make room on the roster for Sloan.

Backup quarterback Todd Bouman missed practice Wednesday because of a death in his family. ^------<

DEUCE PROPS: Running back Deuce McAllister, who posted 165 yards rushing at Washington, was selected the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. McAllister has rushed for 100 or more yards in nine straight games. He is one of three NFL running backs who has rushed for at least 1,000 yards and caught at least 50 passes through 12 games. He leads the NFC in rushing with 1,393 yards and has caught 50 passes. He joins Kansas City's Priest Holmes (1,177 and 55) and San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (1,172 and 66). ^------<

SAINTS SELLOUTS: The game this weekend against Tampa Bay, and Dec. 28 game against Dallas are sellouts except for scattered single tickets. The Dec. 14 game with the New York Giants has fewer than 5,000 tickets left for sale.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index