The health of a few banged-up Tampa Bay Bucs players is trending in the right direction, but head coach Dirk Koetter said it’s still too early to declare them ready for action Sunday.
Speaking with reporters after practice Friday, Koetter said running back Doug Martin and center Joe Hawley remain limited at practice and will be game time decisions.
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
“Doug will go right up to the end,” Koetter said. “Doug did more every day this week. He increased a little bit more. And Doug, officially, he’s still not cleared. But there’s still a chance, 48 hours, so we’ll see what happens here.”
As for Hawley, the head coach said a number of various injuries sustained over the course of eight games are catching up to the offensive lineman.
“I think in Joe’s case it’s a little bit of an accumulation of things,” Koetter said. “Joe’s always been able to bounce back and make it back, but he has been limited this week. Joe’s played a lot of games; we’ll just have to see. We’re still 48 hours away from kickoff, so we’ll have to just see how that goes. If not, Evan Smith is more than capable to step in there at center. We’ll see how it goes.”
About four hours after Koetter’s meeting with the media, Hawley was listed on the injury report as doubtful.
Getting an even more negative prognosis was offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile. The left guard suffered a concussion and remains in the league’s monitoring protocol. Combined with the uncertainty surrounding Hawley, the Tampa Bay staff has a decision to make in terms of who will fill in. If Hawley plays, Smith will start at left guard. If Hawley can’t go, the team may choose rookie Caleb Benenoch or second-year pro Ben Gottschalk.
Considering the injuries that have impacted numerous positions this season, the team’s game day personnel decisions aren’t limited to the offensive line, either, Koetter said.
“Yep, [Gottschalk] would be an option. There are a couple different ways we could go on that. Really the guy we haven’t replaced his Howard Jones, but it’s all going to come down to the health of that O-line. Kevin Pamphile is going to be out this game. He’s still in the concussion protocol, so it’ll all come down to the health of Joe Hawley.”
Defensive end Howard Jones was lost for the year against Atlanta last Thursday night and the Bucs continue to be thin along the defensive line. The Bucs have two defensive linemen sitting on the practice squad: second-year defensive end Ryan Russell and rookie defensive tackle Rodney Coe.
Bucs centers Evan Smith and Joe Hawley – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Koetter was speaking with the media prior to the release of Friday’s injury report and did not touch on the status of Clinton McDonald. The defensive tackle’s participation status was upgraded from limited to full from Wednesday to Thursday, however.
If Martin is forced to miss his seventh straight game, the Bucs will be left with Peyton Barber, Mike James and Russell Hansbrough as healthy active roster running backs. Jacquizz Rodgers hasn’t been able to practice all week because of a foot injury.
One player still appearing to be a full go Sunday against Chicago is wide receiver Mike Evans. He’s been a full participant at practice this week after being placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol because of a hit he took last Thursday.
He spoke to the media Friday for the first time since that loss against Atlanta and said he’s feeling 100 percent.
“I feel fine. I felt fine after the hit,” Evans said. “I didn’t have a concussion. But it’s up to them so they put me in the protocol, but I knew I didn’t have a concussion. I appreciate [the cautiousness], I just know my body and I didn’t have a concussion.”