Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Bucs in danger of losing key starters ahead of Saints game

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Amid news of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Logan Ryan returning from injured reserve, things didn’t get any better with a number of key players first injury report of the week.

Five Bucs starters missed practice on Thursday, December 1, among the 10 total players on injury reports. Tight end Cameron Brate (illness), safety Mike Edwards (hamstring), nose tackle Vita Vea (foot), safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and tackle Tristan Wirfs (ankle/knee) all sat out.

Tampa Bay’s secondary could take a big hit, in particular, as head coach Todd Bowles could not confirm whether Winfield or Edwards will play the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 5.

“Well, they haven’t practiced. For now, until we see something better later in the week, we plan to go with the other guys,” Bowles told reporters Thursday.

Wirfs will not play against the Saints on Sunday, November 27 due to his injury against the Cleveland Browns. Vea and Brate, who both played against the Browns, could return for the Saints game.

Three injured Bucs were practicing with limited capacity: wide receiver Russell Gage Jr. (hamstring), guard Luke Goedeke (foot) and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (square). Running back Leonard Fournette (hip) returned to full participation after missing the Browns’ game. Guard Nick Leverett was also fully involved despite a shoulder injury.

Ryan also returned to practice Thursday, a day after the Bucs named him IR’s return due to a broken foot in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs. Ryan can train for the next three weeks and not be included in the 53-man squad. The Bucs could activate Ryan to play the Saints, but Bowles wouldn’t commit to a final decision.

“It’s possible,” Bowles said. “We’ll have to train for a few more days before we do that though – but he’s been moving well.”

Ryan signed with the Bucs as a free agent in the offseason and made an immediate impact this fall. He counted 10 tackles, one interception and two pass deflections in fewer than four games played.

Throw leaves arguably the biggest hole in the offensive for the Bucs. Reserve tackle Josh Wells will primarily fill that role. His reserve colleague Brandon Walton could step in, Bowles said.

“Josh is tough,” Bowles said. “He’s been playing the game for a long time. He’s not Tristan [Wirfs] apparently. He just has to make sure he’s doing the things he can and make sure he’s playing his ball game.

“He doesn’t have to try to be someone else,” Bowles added. “He’s tough, he understands the game well, he understands the scheme and the game plan. We expect him to step in and play well.”

Offensive-line injuries plagued the Bucs from day one of training camp, with center Ryan Jensen suffering a knee injury followed by Aaron Stinnie’s cruciate ligament rupture. Tackle Donovan Smith also had an elbow injury in Week 1 and missed two games. However, Bowles won’t use that as an excuse for a 5-6 aggregate record.

“It’s all about syncing,” Bowles said. “They sort of took the place of the DBs last year – we plug in the guys and we play them. But they understand the pattern and we just have to play better.”



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