On Monday, Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris said that second-year defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who has been one of the stars on defense for the Buccaneers in training camp, will see his first preseason action at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday when the New England Patriots come to town. For McCoy, who missed Tampa Bay’s shutout 25-0 win at Kansas City on Friday due to a sore rotator cuff injury, it will be his first game back since tearing his biceps muscle at Washington on December 12.
That injury caused McCoy to be placed on injured reserve just after he started getting to the quarterback. The Bucs’ 2010 first-round draft pick recorded all three of his sacks in San Francisco and Baltimore – just weeks prior to his biceps tear. With his biceps tear fully rehabbed and his rotator cuff strain on the mend, Morris talked about playing time for McCoy and Brian Price.
“I know McCoy will play for sure, “Morris said. “He is a certain guy. [Brian] Price, is still up in the air. I still want to see him in practice and move around in pads. What he does in individuals today will be a big part of that [decision].”
While McCoy will be starting on Thursday, Morris said that starting nose tackle Roy Miller would be out against the Patriots after banging up his knee in the first quarter against the Chiefs. Miller’s injury is not believed to be serious.
“Roy [Miller] is day-to-day, with a knee ding,” Morris said. “He will be out this week for sure. I can almost guarantee you I wont play him with a knee ding.”
The Bucs are thin right now at nose tackle with injuries to Miller and Price, who is in his second year after spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve after undergoing radical pelvic-hamstring surgery. Price, who will likely miss Thursday’s game against New England, has been practicing with the team, although he is out of shape and about a month away from where he wants to be conditioning-wise.
“Brian Price will go through individuals then we will see where we are for practice,” Morris said. “He is one of those guys we have to keep monitoring and keep watching to get him ready. He is about a month away from where he wants to be. According to the schedule of the first one. He got those hamstrings ripped off the bone one at a time. The first one took about nine months to heal and this one about seven. So hopefully we can get him going in the right direction. You want to make him ready, to force him to be ready but unfortunately that’s not the case with the hamstring and healing process.”
The absence of Miller and Price will mean extended playing time for Al Woods, who had a team-leading three tackles at Kansas City on Friday, and possibly seeing Frank Okam, who is McCoy’s backup at the three-technique position, playing some nose tackle. The big, 360-pound defensive tackle, who was signed by the Bucs late last season and contributed 15 tackles, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery while starting in place of the injured McCoy last year, drew praise from Morris on Monday.
“I don’t think Frank Okam came to camp worried about people being dinged up,” Morris said. “Frank Okam came to camp with a mission. He is a big physical man. Last year he had a big breakout game making tackles. He’s been moving bodies. He’s different than what we have ever seen in Tampa.”
Morris raved about Okam’s unique size-speed ratio and how that helps him defeat the attempts of offensive linemen.
“He is kind of, I don’t even know what his technique is. It’s just, ‘Get out of the way.’ It works for him. I like it. He is certainly in the mix to play. He’s 350 [pounds] maybe [laughs] He’s just a big man. He doesn’t get tired. He just one of those guys you just say,’ Is he out of shape?’ Then you look at him and say, ‘Oh no, he just looks like a refrigerator.’ There is no stomach. He’s not fat, he’s just big.”
Mark Cook contributed to this reported to this report.