The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t escape the 2007 preseason without suffering some significant injuries. The Bucs have placed six players on injured reserve, including fullback Mike Alstott, since July 26.
The good news for the Bucs is they’re getting back some of their banged up players just in time for their Week 1 contest against the Seattle Seahawks, which will be played at 4:15 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Bucs rookie guard Arron Sears, right tackle Jeremy Trueblood and tight end Alex Smith returned to practice on Sunday.
All three players were held out of Tampa Bay’s preseason finale vs. Houston on Thursday night. Sears and Smith have been nursing their respective ankle injuries while Trueblood has rested an inflamed Achilles tendon.
According to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, Sears, Trueblood and Smith should be ready to play against the Seahawks one week from today.
“Sears and Trueblood and all of those guys returned,” said Gruden. “Alex is okay. He returned today. I think Sears, Trueblood and Smith all could have played the other night if they needed to. But because of their inactivity on the practice field we felt it was right to keep them out.”
While those three players are on the mend, defensive end Patrick Chukwurah still is nursing a knee injury. However, the Bucs remain hopeful that Chukwurah will be able to play against the Seahawks.
“Chukwurah got his knee brace off so he’s closing in,” said Gruden. “Other than Patrick Chukwurah I think we’re about 100 percent ready to go.”
In other injury news, Bucs quarterback Chris Simms missed Sunday’s practice. He spent the morning and afternoon receiving treatment for his injured hip, an injury the team announced he had on Thursday.
Although Sears and Trueblood have returned to action, Gruden elected not to announce which players would start against Seattle, particularly along the offensive line, where Sears is battling Anthony Davis at left guard and John Wade has been attempting to fend off Dan Buenning and Matt Lehr for the starting center job.
“We’re going to show up in Seattle and obviously put 11 starters out there,” said Gruden. “We don’t feel like the depth chart needs to be a public deal, no disrespect to anybody.
“John Wade most likely will be our starting center, He’s played center for us before and we do have some guys who have done some good things. We’re going to see a lot of guys play on both sides of the ball. For that reason I’m going to be reluctant to tell you who is starting and who is playing what.”
Sears, a second-round pick in April, appeared to have earned the starting left guard job until he injured his ankle in practice. Sears believes the competition between he and Davis will be an ongoing process.
“I still have to earn it,” Sears said of the starting left guard job. “We have a whole week of practice here. You never know what might happen out here. I am going to give it all I have – 110 percent, and we’ll see who Coach Gruden wants to put in at that spot.”
A few spots are given. Jeff Garcia will start at quarterback, Cadillac Williams will start at running back and Joey Galloway will start at the X (split-end) receiver spot.
But the Z (flanker) position is still up for grabs and likely will feature a committee of David Boston, Michael Clayton, Ike Hilliard and Maurice Stovall against Seattle.
“We’re looking for a flanker to basically be a every-down flanker,” said Gruden. “That might be the case at some point so, but at this time I’m not ready to say we’re going that route.”
Tampa Bay will practice at One Buccaneer Place on Labor Day and is scheduled to have the day off on Tuesday. The Bucs will hold three more practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before departing for Seattle on Friday.
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