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Bucs HC Bowles Updates Injury Statuses For Key OL

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By: Bailey Adams

The Bucs have a very important matchup ahead of them on New Year’s Day as they host the resurgent Panthers in a “hat and t-shirt game.” Even at 7-8, they can wrap up the NFC South and set themselves up for a home playoff game on Wild Card Weekend with a win over Carolina.

Of course, it won’t come easy for Tampa Bay. Todd Bowles’ team has been one of the most up-and-down teams in the league this season and Carolina is a surprising 5-5 under interim head coach Steve Wilks. One of those five wins came against the Bucs, a 21-3 domination back in Week 7. So, Bowles and his team are already up against it. It doesn’t help that a couple of key offensive linemen are dealing with injuries, too.

Bucs RT Tristan Wirfs – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Left tackle Donovan Smith missed last week’s game with a foot injury, while right tackle Tristan Wirfs returned after a three-week ankle injury only to re-aggravate that ankle late in the overtime win over Arizona. Not to mention, backup tackle Josh Wells went down in that game with a torn patellar tendon and will miss the rest of the season. So, needless to say, the Bucs badly need Smith back and really need Wirfs ready to go as well.

With that in mind, Wednesday’s practice was a sight for sore eyes, as both Smith and Wirfs were out there getting their work in. They were officially listed as limited participants on the injury report, though, and Bowles tempered expectations for them so early in the week when speaking with the media after practice.

“It’s early – we’ll see how it goes,” Bowles said. “It was kind of light today, so we’ll see once we get into it tomorrow and Friday and see exactly where they are.”

As much as Bowles might want to play it by ear, Wirfs told the media that he’ll be ready to go when it comes time for Tampa Bay and Carolina to kick off on Sunday afternoon. He did acknowledge that there are some positions in which his ankle bothers him, but said he’ll be OK.

Having Smith and Wirfs back for Week 17 would be huge for an offensive line that will be tasked with slowing down Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns, who has 12.5 sacks this season.

Bucs Will Not Have Injured Center Back In Week 17

Bucs C Ryan Jensen

Bucs C Ryan Jensen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The Bucs’ offensive line hasn’t been the same this season without Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen. The veteran injured his knee on the second day of training camp and has missed the entire season so far, but there’s always been a slight hope that he would be able to make it back at the end of the year or potentially for the playoffs. That hope appears more realistic than ever now that Jensen’s 21-day activation window is open.

The 31-year-old returned to the field on Wednesday and can come off of injured reserve any time in the next 21 days. But, understandably, he won’t go from missing five months of football to jumping back into action against the Panthers this week. Bowles ruled him out for the game and made it clear that the team doesn’t want to put any pressure on Jensen to rush back.

“We don’t have any expectations [for] him – it’s part of his rehab process,” Bowles said. “Having him out there and seeing him out there is a big lift for the guys. He was the anchor and he was the attitude guy when he was here, so just having him out there is a big lift.”

Jensen’s injury was never specified outside of the fact that it was a knee issue, and Bowles didn’t go into further detail on Wednesday. And when he was asked whether the Bucs might see Jensen make a return for Week 18 against Atlanta, he once again stayed away from making any projections.

“The goal is for him to get healthy – this is all part of his rehab right now,” Bowles said. “We’re not even thinking about him getting in pads at this point. He’s day-to-day. As it progresses, we’ll have more of a report, but right now he’s just happy to be out there running, doing something – that’s good for him and it’s a good lift for him and it’s a good lift for the guys.”

The post Bucs HC Bowles Updates Injury Statuses For Key OL appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report