UPDATED: As the Bucs wrapped up the first half of the season at 4-4 following a second consecutive disappointing loss, the injury list grew by two more on Monday. PewterReport.com has learned that cornerback Torrie Cox tore his ACL on Sunday and is lost for the year. Cox injured his knee in the first half of Tampa Bay's 24-23 loss to Jacksonville on Sunday while covering a kickoff.
Cox, who is Tampa Bay's best special teams player, had six special teams tackles in 2007 despite missing the first four games due to a league suspension.
Bucs defensive end Greg Spires was being evaluated for a calf injury. Spires was helped off the field in the fourth quarter of the 24-23 loss vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The injuries have kept piling up, along with the losses, for the Bucs in the last four weeks. Tampa Bay has lost three out of its last four games after jumping out to 3-1 start and lost its first home game of the season vs. the Jaguars. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is hoping to get some injured players – tight end Alex Smith, wide receiver Michael Clayton and running back Michael Pittman – back for this Sunday's contest vs. the Arizona Cardinals to help the Bucs get back on the winning track and get rid of their current two-game losing streak.
"Our team will respond. They are going to respond. They responded yesterday, they will respond today and they will respond next week," Gruden said. "That doesn't mean that Arizona's not going to come in here ready to go coming off their bye week. They are a good football team. I watched them beat Pittsburgh at home. I watched them play very well this morning on tape. We will have our football team ready to go. Hopefully we will get some of our players back so I'm eager to see the trainer because he's responsible for the mess we have on our hands at this time."
Spires has been hindered for the past couple of weeks with an ankle injury that has limited him in practice. His play this season has been less than stellar as he has recorded 24 tackles and one sack. Spires is just one of several defensive linemen who have struggled to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
He left Raymond James Stadium after Sunday's game in a walking boot.
Smith, Clayton and Pittman are all battling back from ankle injuries that have sidelined each player for at least one week. Pittman had ligament damage in his ankle in a Week 5 loss vs. the Indianapolis Colts. He was supposed to be out 6 to 8 weeks, but stated last week that he could be back before the Nov. 11 bye week. The thought on Pittman, however, is that he will return after the bye week.
Smith was injured in a 13-10 victory vs. the Tennessee Titans in Week 6 when he was carted off the field in the fourth quarter. Smith hasn't practiced for two weeks, but Gruden is hopeful that he will return to practice this week. Clayton injured his ankle vs. the Detroit Lions last week and was sidelined vs. Jacksonville on Sunday. Clayton stated last week that he would return at the latest after the Nov. 11 bye week.
Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah has sat out the last two weeks with a shoulder injury after battling back from an MCL tear in his knee during the preseason. Cornerback Brian Kelly has been out for three weeks with a groin injury that has plagued him the entire regular season.
Gruden isn't happy about all the injuries that have hit the Bucs this season, but he's pleased with the effort midway through the season.
"I've got to meet a lot of guys on the football team. We've used just about every guy on the football team," Gruden said. "We are playing hard; our last three games have come down to the final seconds. We won a game against Tennessee in dramatic fashion. Had a chance to do that yesterday, put ourselves in position to do that in Detroit. The guys are playing hard. Some of the young players are getting better and we feel like if we can get some guys back for the second half of the season that we can hang around and make this thing interesting."
STOVALL STILL HAS WORK TO DO
Bucs wide receiver Maurice Stovall took advantage of his opportunity to make some plays in the offense vs. the Jaguars. Stovall finished the game with five receptions for 47 yards and had a deflection of a punt on special teams. However, Stovall still has some growth to make in his game before he pushes to get on the field when Clayton returns.
Stovall had two penalties, a holding and offensive pass interference, that negated positive plays, which didn't go over well with Gruden. His performance vs. Jacksonville was encouraging, but he must show some consistency on the field to become a threat in the offense.
"I thought he did okay. He had a couple of penalties; a push off in the two-minute, a holding call on the reverse that negated a 12 or 15-yard run," Gruden said. "His inexperience showed at times, but I thought he played hard, made a couple of nice catches, played on special teams, got tired and we had to take a timeout late in the ballgame to get our guys some air. Joey [Galloway] got tired certainly and Maurice did some good things and it was a good start."
Stovall has six receptions for 51 yards (8.5 avg.) and one touchdown this season. His lone touchdown of the season came vs. the Lions on a 4-yard reception late in the fourth quarter.
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