Although they remain hopeful, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have to take the field in Buffalo Sunday without one of their main offensive weapons.
Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant was held out of Thursday's practice due to soreness in his knee. That appears to be a setback for Bryant, who saw limited action during Wednesday's practice.
Bryant isn't technically injured. He is dealing with pain and inflammation stemming from minor knee surgery he had in August. That procedure kept Bryant out of most of training camp and all four of Tampa Bay's preseason games.
"Not real concerned," Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said of Bryant's knee. "Just disappointed for his sake. You want Antonio to play, of course. Obviously disappointed, but we got guys on this team that have played. We have guys on the team that will go in there. Obviously, we want Antonio to play for us. If he's not there the next man has to step up. That's what happens on every team. Everybody lost a starter this week, and you do from week to week, you just deal."
Should Bryant, who led the Bucs in receptions with 83 for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008, not be able to play vs. Buffalo, the Bucs likely would use a committee approach that would include rookie Sammie Stroughter, Brian Clark and Maurice Stovall.
"We got a nice rotation," Morris said. "We got Sammie Stroughter, we got Maurice Stovall, Brian Clark. All those guys have helmets on. It is hard to say who would start. Especially when you are talking about offense because we come out in different personnel groupings with different people, so it is hard to say who would start."
The Bucs remain optimistic that Bryant, who caught two passes for 29 yards vs. the Cowboys before leaving the game early last Sunday, will be able to play vs. the Bills.
"I'm not in the business of anticipation," Morris said when asked if Bryant would play Sunday. "I'm in the business of you show up for work, and you play them. I just have to wait and lean on my doctors. I'll lean on my people around me. I'll lean on Antonio, and all the people on this list. They'll let me know."
In other injury news, Bucs center Jeff Faine (triceps), wide receiver, cornerback E.J. Biggers (shoulder) and defensive lineman Kyle Moore (groin) were held out of Thursday's practice.
Bucs tight end John Gilmore (ankle) and safety Jermaine Phillips (calf) were limited on Thursday. Phillips, who was not listed on Wednesday's injury report, believes he'll be fine to play vs. Buffalo.
Morris said Thursday that either Sean Mahan or Jonathan Compas would start at center in place of Faine, who is sidelined for a few weeks with his triceps injury.
The Bills have their own injuries heading into Sunday's game vs. Tampa Bay. Starting linebacker Paul Posluszny (forearm) will miss the contest. He and starting right end Aaron Schobel (back) were held out of Thursday's practice. Bills DE Chris Kelsay (knee), tight end Derek Fine (hamstring) and cornerback Drayton Florence (knee) had limited participation.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris when asked if he's talked with suspended safety Tanard Jackson?
"I talked to him this morning. He's okay. It is tough to see your team try to win football games when you're not there help. It is hard for him. It is going to be hard for him. He cares about this football team. He loves this football team. He's just showing it right now how much he has to love it, how much dedication he is going to put in to being back and be a part of it. Right now Tanard Jackson is not here. Now I did talk to him. I have a soft spot for him, like I have a soft spot for a lot of my players, but I'll give you the mentally tough coaching point. He's not here right now, so we are going to deal with it. He's affecting us. He's hurting us."