Crushed by injuries all season long, the Tampa Bay Bucs endured even more during Thursday night’s 43-28 home loss against Atlanta and a couple of the prognoses don’t look good, head coach Dirk Koetter said Friday afternoon.
“Unfortunately, Antone [Smith] suffered a significant injury and I think that would probably be a season-ending injury. That would be the same for Howard Jones. I think that would be a season ending injury.”
Add to it the positions of those two newly shelved players – running back for Smith and defensive end for Jones – and their losses hurt a little more. It’s becoming an unprecedented string of bad luck, Koetter said.
“Never. Haven’t seen it,” the Bucs first-year head coach said when asked if he’s experienced anything similar in his career. “We’ve hit on this before, but for whatever reason, we’re being hit hard at two positions: running back and defensive end. They’ve been the positions that we’ve been hit really hard on. Other teams in the league have their issues at different positions, but I’ve never seen – when we’re a one-back team – four running backs go in one year. I have never seen that.”
Smith went down and out after injuring his knee during the Bucs’ final drive of the game and Jones, too, exited with a knee issue of his own.
To Koetter’s point about two position groups getting hit the hardest, Smith is the fourth running back to go down since the start of the regular season and Jones will be the third defensive end to land on injured reserve since the offseason. Prior to Smith, the Bucs lost and are still without Doug Martin, Charles Sims III and Jacquizz Rodgers. Defensive end George Johnson never made it to training camp and Jacquies Smith was hurt Week 1 in Atlanta. Robert Ayers Jr. missed Weeks 3-6 before returning last Sunday against Oakland.
Jones and Smith weren’t the only two Bucs to take their shots Thursday, either. Wide receiver Mike Evans needed to be checked out for a concussion because of the hit he took after making his ridiculous one-handed catch, quarterback Jameis Winston stayed on the sideline for a Bucs offensive series for the first time in his pro career because of a hard hit received while trying to convert a 2-point conversion, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander missed an extended portion of the game with a banged-up shoulder, center Joe Hawley went down with a knee injury and didn’t return, and left guard Kevin Pamphile is having a possible concussion evaluated by medical personnel.
“Joe [Hawley’s injury] is not as significant,” Koetter said Monday, addressing a few more of his battered Bucs players. “Anything on Joe would be short-term.
“Mike’s in the concussion protocol, as is Kevin Pamphile. Both of those guys are in the concussion protocol. I don’t even really know what all of that entails. I do know that Mike will be able to practice on Monday. We’re having a very light practice. I don’t think Kevin will be. I don’t think Kevin will be – I don’t think he’s that far along, but that’s really all I know.”
Troubles on the defensive line don’t end on the ends for Tampa Bay. Tackle Clinton McDonald missed his fourth straight game Thursday.
As for the offensive backfield, the Bucs are down to rookie Peyton Barber and Mike James on the active roster and rookie Russell Hansbrough on the practice squad.
Staying with the offense, Koetter also updated Louis Murphy’s status as the receiver works his way back from knee surgery. Murphy began his 21-day period to return from the reserve/physically unable to perform list on Oct. 17, but that window is closing and a determination of his health needs to be made soon.
“I’m not sure on that,” Koetter said of an upcoming decision on Murphy. “You’re correct on the 21-day window. I’m not really sure if he’s healthy enough to practice starting Monday. I’m not sure on that.”