Although injuries have taken their toll at the wide receiver position this summer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team is not yet ready to pull the trigger on signing a veteran pass catcher.
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris revealed that Antonio Bryant, the team’s franchise player, underwent successful surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his left knee on Tuesday morning and will only be out three weeks.
Michael Clayton, who starts opposite Bryant, is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury and may not be ready to play in the preseason opener at Tennessee on Saturday.
Reserves Kelly Campbell and Joel Filani have also been out for several days with leg injuries. Campbell pulled a quad muscle while Filani has a hamstring strain.
The Bucs worked out a couple receivers prior to training camp, but Drew Bennett retired after a few days after signing with Baltimore, and D.J. Hackett wound up signing with Washington. The other two veteran receivers that the media has linked to the Buccaneers are Marvin Harrison and Plaxico Burress.
Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik was asked if the team is considering bringing in any veteran receivers and admitted that the topic had been discussed.
“We’ve talked about it,” said Dominik. “We wanted to see how today’s practices go and see how we get through them. I think the morning practice went well. If we have seven or eight good bodies for the game that will be fine, and it gives those guys an opportunity.”
Morris, who noted that the team just signed Mario Urrutia and has praised rookie Sammie Stroughter almost daily, didn’t seem overly concerned with the wide receiver position.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys that you really don’t know – the Brian Clarks of the world,” Morris said. “This Sammie Stroughter kid that keeps coming up and popping up every day. Mario Urrutia, Mo (Stovall) – they’ve been making plays. They have to get to the game and do it, which they haven’t done at this point. These guys have to go out and play. They all have talent. They’ve all been here for a while.
“You never want to say you are okay about losing your starters, but we need to be mentally tough and move on. It doesn’t really matter who it is.”
Morris also mentioned that the absence of Bryant and Clayton could allow another more unheralded player the opportunity to step up and make a name for himself and secure a roster spot.
“Last year, you could have said the same thing about Antonio Bryant,” Morris said. “Who did we have at wideout? He emerged on the scene. There’s going to be a wideout emerge every year. We have to see if Clayton can make it back, and I think he can. I think he can be productive like he was his rookie year.”
Part of the reason why the Bucs aren’t overly concerned with the absence of Bryant and Clayton is the fact that the tight ends are expected to play a major role in the passing game, which will take some of the burden off the receiver position this year.
“When you talk about us, you’ve got to mention our tight ends when you talk about our receiving threats,” Morris said. “You’ve got to mention Kellen Winslow. You’ve got to mention Jerramy Stevens. When you need the ability to get down the field and stretch people vertically and you are talking about eligible wideouts and eligible receivers (you need to include those guys.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org