The Buccaneers suffered their first major injury of the 2008 training camp on Monday when they lost cornerback Torrie Cox to a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in his left knee, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden announced on Tuesday.
“Torrie Cox has injured his left knee and unfortunately he’ll be out for the season,” Gruden said. “He’ll be placed on injured reserve today. That’s a big blow for us. He’s not only a very good special teams player, but he was a guy that was not only going to be in competition for a roster spot, but playing time. We wish him the best, but it’s a big blow to us.”
This is Cox’s third stint on IR, dating back to 2003 when the same injury to the same knee kept him from playing that season. Last year, Cox was lost for the 2004 campaign after four years due to tearing the ACL in his right knee.
With Tampa Bay’s depth at the cornerback position with Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, first-round pick Aqib Talib, Eugene Wilson and Sammy Davis, Cox had an uphill battle to climb to earn a roster spot this season.
Gruden said that the Bucs will move quickly to fill the vacant roster spot created by Cox’s absence.
“Not only at the corner position, but at another position,” Gruden said. “You have to have as many players on the field as you can. We’ve had a couple of linemen working out. We might bring in a couple receivers, but we will fill that roster spot as soon as possible.”
Sources tell Pewter Report that the Buccaneers may have an interest in bringing in former Dallas wide receiver Terry Glenn for a workout if he checks out okay medically. However, with left tackle Luke Petitgout on the active PUP (physically unable to perform) list, the Bucs may opt to sign an offensive tackle to help the numbers in practice at that position.
INJURY REPORT FROM TUESDAY Running back Earnest Graham was dinged up a bit with an undisclosed injury on Tuesday morning, in addition to a couple other Buccaneers players.
“We had a couple of guys get dinged up,” Gruden said. “[Fullback] B.J. [Askew] twisted his ankle. I don’t know how severe, but he practiced and we’ll see how he is at lunch. [Tight end] Ben Troupe got hit in the head. We think he’ll be okay. He left a little early.”
Gruden said that it is still status quo on wide receiver Joey Galloway, who set a team record with three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2005-07. Galloway has yet to practice in training camp due to a mild groin strain.
“He ran 20 100-yard dashes yesterday and he looked pretty good to me,” Gruden said. “I wish I could have run them that fast. We’re still canceling flights today and probably tomorrow.”
Despite the fact that Galloway remains the team’s best weapon in the passing game, the Bucs haven’t missed him thus far at training camp due to the stellar play of all of the team’s receivers.
“I’m really impressed. I’m really impressed,” Gruden said. “Granted, it’s early and we haven’t played deep into training camp, but the versatility that these guys are showing is very impressive. With Galloway out, guys have stepped up. Paris Warren is playing well. Antonio Bryant is a good receiver. I’ll give him that. Maurice Stovall has been impressive. From top to bottom – really any guy you want to talk about, they’ve done a nice job for us. Hopefully it continues.”
The best receiver in camp through the first four days has been Michael Clayton, who is entering the final year of his contract about 10-12 pounds lighter than he has been in previous seasons.
“He’s a 208-pound man right now and he’s running all kind of routes,” Gruden said. “You’re seeing him as an outside receiver. He’s working in the slot. He’s playing three different positions. He’s been very, very good to this point in training camp. That’s what we’ve talked about – just stringing days together. If he does that, we all know he’s a heck of a football player. We like what we see so far.”
SAFETY SUBS STEP IT UP One of the stars in Tuesday morning’s practice was backup strong safety Sabby Piscitelli, who had an interception and forced a fumble at the 1-yard line by punching the ball out of Michael Clayton’s hands just as he was about to score on a long reception. Fellow safety Donte Nicholson also shined during the morning practice by forcing a fumble by tight end Jerramy Stevens and picking off a pass.
“They sure did,” Gruden said of the play of Piscitelli and Nicholson. “We’re trying strategically on our scripts to not only work the offense, but as the head coach, you try to take a good look at this player here, or that player there. Monte Kiffin and I meet early, early in the morning and try to get what we need to see – not only from a scheme standpoint – but try to put some players in some vulnerable, playmaking positions. We have very good safeties here that can cover grass in a hurry. That’s a strength of our football team right now. Phillips is playing great and Tanard Jackson, I think, can be one of the league’s best safeties. I believe that.”
While Nicholson, who has been on and off the practice squad and roster several times since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, will need many more practices like he had this morning to have a chance of making the team, the same can’t be said of Piscitelli, who was a second-round selection last year.
Piscitelli has shown no ill effects from a broken foot that forced him to go on injured reserve after the third game of his rookie season. Conversely, his playmaking ability could cause him to earn some playing time in 2008 despite the stellar play of starter Jermaine Phillips.
“Hopefully he continues to do what he’s doing,” Gruden said of Piscitelli. “Who says we can’t play three safeties at a time? There are teams that play a dime defense. He’ll work his way onto the field if he continues to keep doing what he’s doing.”
GARCIA GETTING USED TO FLORIDA HUMIDITY Tampa Bay starting quarterback Jeff Garcia got the opening weekend of camp off to be with his family for a reunion of his father’s junior college national championship team in Gilroy, Calif. While the Golden State can be quite hot during the same, it lacks Florida’s humidity, which can be stifling while coupled with heat.
“It’s probably all that California air he’s been breathing,” Gruden said of Garcia’s conditioning. “He’s sucking air a little bit. It’s hot. That’s what you get when you miss a few days. But he’s made some great throws. He hit nine or 10 in a row in 7-on-7 and was very good in the red zone. He’s sharp. We just have to work the deep ball a little more. He’ll measure it and he’ll been fine.
“It hasn’t been cooler,” Gruden said. “The heat index on our report card is over 100 degrees every day. The one good thing in the afternoon is that we don’t administer any IVs. It gives the guys a chance I think to recover a little bit and we also get a lot of work done in that little bubble over there.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Jon Gruden on the size of 5-foot-9, 182-pound rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson.
“He’s actually a pretty thick guy. He’s fast and quick. As he matures physically over time, he’ll gain a little bit of muscle and mass. We don’t want to change too much. We like that 4.28 [speed]. There’s not a lot of guys in the world that can do that.”
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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