The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 0-4 for many reasons. On paper the Bucs have arguably the best team in the NFL. But what do the best teams in the NFL have that the Buccaneers do not? A tight end worth throwing the ball to.
Not taking anything away from Nate Byham, Luke Stocker, nor Tim Wright, but neither have stood out as go to guys for the Buccaneers to start this season. A wide-open missed opportunity in the end zone, missed blocking assignments, and bad route running have all been mentioned in the same sentence with Tampa Bay’s tight ends. Collectively, the Bucs tight ends have caught nine passes for 85 yards, and of the three both Byham and Stocker have been placed on injured reserve. The team ranks 30th in tight end receptions – the 29 ahead of them are individual players.
However, help may soon be around the corner.
Tampa Bay brought in tight end Tom Crabtree this past offseason from the Green Bay Packers to help at the position. Fighting a high ankle sprain suffered during the final preseason game against the Washington Redskins, his return draws closer.
“There’s no need to – we have to be smart about it – no need to push it (his ankle injury),” Crabtree said. “But at the same time I want to be out there and be involved as much I can to be ready.”
Just last week, Crabtree was potentially getting closer to coming back. Head coach Greg Schiano informed the media he was limited in practice last Thursday then Friday stated that the 27-year old tight end suffered a setback hence forcing him to miss the fourth straight week. Crabtree talked about that setback.
“You know, I was trying to get back out there for the game last week,” Crabtree said. “Went out there on Wednesday, tried to move around and felt good for a little bit and there’s one instance where – I don’t know if you’d say I tweaked it or a setback, whatever you (want to) call it – the ankle wouldn’t go.
“That’s kind of the frustrating thing. I’m kind of learning as I go. I feel like I’m ready one day and then go out there and try to move, it’s frustrating.”
On average, a high ankle sprain sidelines a player anywhere from four to six weeks. Since coming down with the injury during the final preseason game, the timetable for return puts him right at the back end of the timetable which is Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Crabtree stated the Eagles game is the one he is hoping for to step back out on to the field.
“Yeah, I think virtually that’s kind of where my sights are set,” Crabtree said. “Talking to (head trainer) Todd (Toriscelli) and the trainers I think it’s a realistic goal. Hopefully, be smart about it this week and get back out there.
There is a fine line because in this league you are going to play with pain and injuries and such but I have to kind of gauge whether there’s a fine line of playing with some pain or playing hurt to where you’re not really helping the team you’re actually hurting the team. If I go out there at 70 percent, it’s not helping anybody. But I understand there is a need at the position now. It seems like that need is increasing every week (with) unfortunately someone going down. I think Eagles week is a realistic goal.”
Crabtree worked primarily with the first team during training camp due to Stocker being held out because of injury. It was then where he was receiving passes from quarterback Josh Freeman. But it will now be Mike Glennon who he will receive passes from – like when the two connected for a 61-yard catch and run in Week 1 of the preseason. Crabtree says Glennon has what it takes to be a leader.
“One thing (in Week 4), he looked good in there as far as just his command of the offense and the huddle,” Crabtree said. “He was fearless and that was a really good sign. We expect that from Mike and he showed that.”
The return of Crabtree will be a welcomed sight for the Buccaneers. An already depleted position due to injuries only has Tim Wright as the lone healthy Buccaneer on the 53-man roster. His versatility in the run and passing games should prove to be an asset for Tampa Bay.