The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field at One Buccaneer Place on Wednesday in preparation for their Week 2 opponent – the Atlanta Falcons.
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks was held out of the practice due to a hamstring injury he sustained in the third quarter of Sunday's regular season opener in New Orleans.
A 10-time Pro Bowler, Brooks leads all active NFL players in consecutive games played with 209, including 193 straight starts. Watching any part of a regular season game is not something Brooks is used to, nor is it something he wants to continue to do.
"There was only one other time, and that was back in high school when I had a concussion and missed the first half of a game. That's the only time I've ever missed a significant amount of time in a game," said Brooks. "Hopefully I don't have to do it again."
Brooks' streak is in jeopardy due to the hamstring injury he sustained vs. the Saints. The severity of the hamstring ailment remains a mystery due to the fact that head coach Jon Gruden apparently has issued a gag order to Brooks in regards to speaking about his health status for Sunday's game vs. Atlanta.
"I've been under strict orders from our head coach not to really go into the details of my situation in terms of my injury," Brooks said on Wednesday. "We'll know on game day whether I'll be able to go or not. I'm under strict orders, or a gag order. That's all I'm at liberty to discuss right now. We'll see what happens on Sunday."
Should Brooks not be able to play vs. the Falcons, Tampa Bay has a few options. It could play second-year linebacker Adam Hayward in place of Brooks at the weakside position. That's what happened when Brooks left Sunday's game with the injury, but his game action was briefly interrupted, which forced backup middle linebacker Matt McCoy to replace Hayward in the lineup.
"I actually cramped, so I went and got an I.V.," said Hayward. "I was out for a couple of plays and went and got an I.V. and then I came back in. McCoy had to step in, and he really didn't practice there all week at that spot, but he kind of knew what to do to help fill the spot for a couple of plays."
Hayward and rookie LB Geno Hayes will practice in place of Brooks, but they expect their defensive leader to be ready to play by Sunday.
"Right now we're looking at it like, "Derrick is going to play,' That's the way we're looking at it right now," said Hayward. "Geno and I will practice at Will, but Derrick still is the No. 1 guy and he'll be ready to go.
"If Derrick thinks he can play then he's going to play. There's no reason he shouldn't play. He's played 14 years, so he's played through everything."
The Bucs could also move strongside linebacker Cato June over to the weakside to fill in for Brooks and have second-year LB Quincy Black start at the strongside spot.
"I'd be comfortable. It's not like I'd be changing positions," said Black. "Cato is a very good player, so I'm sure he'd be fine. I am mentally prepared. I learned a lot in those last two games in San Francisco and against Carolina. I picked up on a lot of things. I'm looking to build on that."
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Tampa Bay is working on some contingency plans should Brooks not be able to play on Sunday.
"His status for the game is questionable," Gruden said. "Obviously we have some rotations that we're looking at. I have no announcements as to who would start if Derrick doesn't play."
Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks (hamstring), quarterback Jeff Garcia (ankle) and guard Davin Joseph (foot) did not practice on Wednesday.
Running back Warrick Dunn (team decision), wide receiver Joey Galloway (decision) and WR Maurice Stovall (back) were limited in practice. Linebacker Matt McCoy (groin) had full participation in practice today.
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