The Bucs were relatively lucky when it came to injuries during their Super Bowl season in 2020. That certainly hasn’t been the case over the last two years.
In 2021, Tampa Bay dealt with the injury bug quite a lot. Early on in the season, it was the cornerbacks. As the season came to an end, it was the wide receiver room. And in the playoffs, the offensive line dealt with a couple of big injuries. There’s an argument to be made that the Bucs very well could’ve completed their back-to-back quest had they stayed healthy. But it wasn’t to be.
It hasn’t been much better in 2022, especially with Ryan Jensen going down with a significant knee injury on the second day of training camp. Julio Jones, Russell Gage and Chris Godwin have all dealt with injuries at different points in the year. Donovan Smith had an elbow issue early on. Akiem Hicks missed several weeks with a foot injury, while Antoine Winfield Jr., Carlton Davis III and Sean Murphy-Bunting have all missed multiple weeks as well. And Logan Ryan remains sidelined with a foot injury of his own.
Most weeks, Tampa Bay’s injury report has been lengthy. But by the looks of Wednesday’s, the Bucs are slowly but surely getting healthier as they prepare for the stretch run of the regular season.
There are still some pretty big names on that list, and there are even some new ones. It’s still a much shorter list, though. Plus, the team should be getting some key players back over the last couple months of the season. Ryan is expected back in the coming weeks, while Giovani Bernard was designated to make his return from injured reserve earlier this week.
It’s a good thing Tampa Bay is getting healthier, too, considering they’re 5-5 and very much locked in a battle with the Falcons for the NFC South crown. If the Bucs can get some guys back and play better ball over their final seven games, they might just peak at the right time and head into the playoffs as a team that no one wants to match up with.
Bucs HC Bowles Gives Updates On Several Injuries
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles was asked about quite a few injured players during his Wednesday press conference. Among them was Bucs running back Leonard Fournette, who came away from the Week 10 win with a hip pointer.
“He’s pretty sore – we’ll see how the week goes,” Bowles said. “If he progresses and gets better to where he can run full speed, then he’ll play. If not, then he won’t.”
As for wide receiver Russell Gage, who has struggled with a hamstring injury since training camp, Bowles said he is continuing to progress.
“He’s getting better,” he said. “He looks better. We’ll see how it goes.”
Gage hasn’t played since the Bucs’ Week 7 loss to the Panthers. He was supposed to be the Bucs offense’s No. 3 receiver behind Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, but that role has largely been vacated for most of the year.
Julio Jones, who of course has dealt with his own injuries over the course of this season, has assumed that spot over the last couple of weeks. He played a big role in Week 10 and now, Bowles said, it’s all about ensuring that he stays on the field.
“It’s great to have him here healthy, finally getting health,” Bowles said. “[He] gives us another guy so they can’t really double Mike [Evans] and Chris [Godwin] all the time. He’s very good in the run game as well, he can do a lot of things for us. We’ve just got to keep him upright that way. He’s been good the last couple of games, he’s been good this off week. We’ll just try to keep him healthy going forward.”
There were a couple of other injury updates that came out of Wednesday’s practice. Rookie left guard Luke Goedeke returned for the first time from his foot injury, which has cost him the last three games. Nick Leverett will once again start in his place this Sunday against the Browns, but the rookie is on his way back to being available should the team need him.
Perhaps the biggest piece of negative news for the Bucs on Wednesday was the absence of Vita Vea from practice. Bowles said the Pro Bowler has a foot injury that they’ll have to monitor throughout the week.
And the final update wasn’t much of an update, as Tampa Bay’s head coach was once again asked about Ryan Jensen, his injured Pro Bowl center. There wasn’t much to be said, so either the Bucs are keeping it hushed or it truly remains up in the air whether or not he returns late this season or in the playoffs.
“They haven’t told me anything right now,” Bowles said. “We’re going without him – we expect to go without him. If he gets better somehow then we’ll welcome him back, but right now we’re going with everybody we’ve got.”