The $47.5 million dollar question this spring has been the health of guard Carl Nicks, who has played in just nine games since signing as a free agent with the Buccaneers in 2012. Nicks suffered a toe injury during his first season in Tampa Bay, then last year, while still recovering, underwent a second surgery on the same foot to clean MRSA from a wound that reportedly started from a blister.
Nicks, who was absent from much of the voluntary workouts this spring, was present on the first day of mandatory mini-camp, and spoke to the media following Tuesday’s practice. The former Saints All-Pro said he believes he will see the football field again this year.
“I think I will be able to play (this year),” Nicks said. “But it just the waiting game with me trying to get back out here.
“I think I will have a modified schedule, but I think I will be able to play football and that is what I am trying to do. There is always going to be pain, it is just how much I can deal with it. I have high tolerance for pain so I think I will be able to deal.”
Head coach Lovie Smith talked about Nicks and his future with the Bucs following practice.
“As much as I know about it right now, Carl hasn’t been around as much as some of the other players, but he was here Monday when we had official physicals and he passed his physical,” Smith said. “From there he has a long way to go. Like all of our players when they initially start working out with us. My expectations for Carl are the same as for everybody else. We’ll take it one day at a time. We’ll see where he is right now and we have a big break in between. No player has an injury that I’m really concerned about that is going to hinder them starting to work out when we come back. That includes Carl from what I know right now.
“And again, I haven’t had a chance to see Carl an awful lot out there. He’s here and he’s excited about being here with his teammates. That’s the thing about some of the rules we have in place. I’ll try not to get too upset about guys for those voluntary practices. You have grown men that make decisions but this week of course they don’t get a chance to make that decision and they’re all here.”
The Bucs could use the former Pro Bowl guard, as many feel the weakest unit on the Bucs offense is the offensive line, particularly at the guard position.
Nicks talked about what he has been able to do thus far in his rehab this year.
“Right now just elliptical, stationary machines,” Nicks said. “I can do weight lifting, all the lifts. Here coming up pretty soon I am going to start doing some jogging, doing some cuts, so I am right on schedule.
“I am not really frustrated. Now if it were Week 1 and I was in the same position, then I would be frustrated. But training camp hasn’t even started.”
Nicks was asked if he could put a percentage on exactly where he is at this point.
“I cant really (put a percentage on it) personally,” Nicks said. “I haven’t been able to do football work. No cutting, no blocking, no drive-blocking, no pulling – nothing like that. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you, but just walking around I have to be at least 60 percent.”
PewterReport.com asked Nicks if the toe injury and surgery from it that ended his 2012 season or the MRSA was the biggest factor in slow recovery process.
“I think anytime you have several injuries on the same foot, you are going to kind of lose track of who is responsible for what,” Nicks said. “At this point I am just trying to play. But I couldn’t say it was more this or more that. Right now they are both screaming in my ear.”
In addition to talking about his injuries, Nicks was asked his thought on the Bucs offensive line and new line coach George Warhop who was hired by Lovie Smith to revamp a disappointing unit.
“I think it can be great, I am one of the oldest guys and I am in my 20’s,” Nicks said. “I love that everyone is so hungry. I have to prove some stuff, our left tackle – we all have a lot to prove.
“I honestly think he can be one of the best offensive line coaches I have ever had. No disrespect to the ones I’ve had before. He does a great job explaining and is down to earth and is relatable.”
While the majority of his teammates will take the next month and a half off and get away from football before the start of training camp, Nicks has other plans for his summer vacation.
Over the next six weeks I will be here training, rehabbing when everyone else is vacationing,” Nicks said. “I will be just trying to get all these mental reps and basically to try and get ready for the field. So I will be here.”
Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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