After laboring through much of the season with an undisclosed shoulder ailment, an injury to his left hand finally forced Gerald McCoy to the shelf.
The sixth-year defensive tackle sat out last week’s win over the Falcons and his status for Sunday’s critical showdown with New Orleans remains in question.
“If he’s able to out there, that would be a big plus for us obviously,” Bucs defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Thursday. “We’ll see. We’ll see if he’s able to practice today and tomorrow, but he’s going to have a big cast on his hand either way. But just having Gerald out there is a big deal for us. It’s still going to be tough to single block him if he’s able to play.”
McCoy was a limited participant in Thursday’s practice for the second straight afternoon. Prior to hitting the field, Tampa Bay’s defensive captain aired his frustrations in the locker room while wearing a wrap on his injured hand.
“It’s just day to day, we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I want to play. If they allow me to play I’ll be out there. But I wanted to play last week and that didn’t happen, so we’ll see what happens.”
When asked about Frazier’s comments regarding the possibility of McCoy playing in a cast, the team’s sack leader said that wouldn’t be an issue.
“I played like that last year,” he said, referencing the left-wrist injury that sidelined him briefly and put him in a cast. “Football’s football, it’s crunch time and you’ve got to go. There are no excuses. If I’m out there, let’s go.”
Tampa Bay’s injury woes hit the defensive line particularly hard last week. The Bucs played without McCoy on the interior as well as ends Jacquies Smith and George Johnson, but still managed to limit Atlanta to 64 yards on the ground and sack quarterback Matt Ryan three times.
Despite being upset about not dressing Sunday, McCoy said he was impressed by the combined effort of tackles Akeem Spence, Henry Melton and Tony McDaniel and ends William Gholston, Howard Jones, Kourtnei Brown and Josh Shirley.
“I wouldn’t say it’s one of the deepest teams [I’ve been on here], I’ll just say guys are stepping up,” McCoy said. “When guys are asked to do certain things they do it, everybody’s growing up fast and guys are learning how to be professionals real quick. Guys are just getting the job done.”
Smith (hamstring) remained a spectator at practice Thursday and Johnson (calf) was limited.
Frazier said fans should expect some more key contributors placed on the inactive list Sunday.
“We’re probably still going to be missing some guys,” Frazier said. “We won’t be where we want to be but that gives some other guys an opportunity. We’ll be close to having just about everybody back but there’s still a couple of guys we’d like to have that won’t be playing in that ball game.”