Another game and another ailment. A few of them, actually, and they’re all on the offensive side of the ball.
Wide receivers Cecil Shorts III (knee) and Adam Humphries (concussion) and tight end Luke Stocker (ankle) all exited during the first half Sunday in San Diego and did not return.
Stocker was out after the Bucs’ very first offensive play from scrimmage. Shorts lasted just two more snaps and suffered the day’s worst injury. The sixth-year veteran took a hard, low shot from Chargers safety Jahleel Addae after successfully catching a 14-yard pass on third-and-9. It was reported after the game that the hit decimated Shorts’ right knee, tearing his ACL, MCL and PCL.
Humphries, the Bucs’ slot receiver and punt returner, made it to the fourth offensive series before getting diagnosed with a concussion.
“Yeah we lost Cecil and Adam and Luke Stocker,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said after the game Sunday. “Bang, bang, bang, there in the first half. So roles were changing. Freddie [Martino], Russell Shepard had to play every snap and three wides. [Tight end] Brandon Myers had to play a lot more. Brandon Myers didn’t practice at all this week really, with a little injury of his own. So guys had to step up and change roles fast.”
Also needing to leave the field Sunday were running back Doug Martin and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, but both players returned to action.
A team already figuring out how to cope with its fair share of injuries may have to figure out how to deal with a few more to the same side of the ball. The Bucs lost receiver Vincent Jackson during their Week 5 win in Carolina and cut ties with oft-injured Louis Murphy on Nov. 29 when it became clear he would not play at all this season while recovering from knee surgery.
What’s known now is that Shorts is not coming back. The status of Humphries and Stocker will have to be monitored throughout the week leading up to Tampa Bay’s Week 14 home game with the New Orleans Saints.
As Koetter stated in his postgame press conference, the early injuries resulted in Tampa Bay needing to lean on lesser-used receivers Shepard and Martino. Shepard played a season-high 50 offensive snaps and caught one of two targets for 15 yards. Martino was in for 29 snaps and secured all four passes that came his way for 56 yards.
“Love is the reason for the fight. When you see your brother go down, the next man, his eyes pop up,” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said Sunday. “He makes you be there for that man. We were there for Freddie [Martino]. Freddie came in and played an amazing game. That’s what it is. When you’re selfless, and when you put the team first, and you go out there and execute, you help us out.
“We trust those guys,” Winston said when asked about needing to rely on backups. “Those guys are working hard every day after practice with me. Those guys are in the weight room early. Those guys are working their tails off so we already have a bond.”
The loss of Shorts will require the Bucs making a move this week. That could be two moves if Humphries isn’t able to recover in time from his concussion. Three of the team’s 10 practice squad slots are filled by receivers: Donteea Dye Jr., Josh Huff and Myles White.
Dye’s appeared in 10 games with the Bucs last year, catches 11 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown. Huff was signed on Nov. 7 after being released by the Philadelphia Eagles, the team that drafted him in the third round out of Oregon in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Huff’s a 5-foot-11 speedster who has 48 receptions for 482 yards and four touchdowns on his three-year pro resume. He also returned kicks in Philly, averaging 27.7 yards on 42 returns and taking two to the house.
White is in his third year and played previously with the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants, totaling 16 catches for 154 yards and one touchdown.