The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could take the field for Sunday's playoff game vs. the New York Giants without rookie guard Arron Sears and linebacker Cato June, both of who were held out of Wednesday's practice while nursing their respective injuries.
June has what the team is calling a foot injury that he sustained in the first quarter of Tampa Bay's 31-23 loss to Carolina last Sunday.
The 6-foot, 227-pound June finished the 2007 regular season, which was his first as a Buccaneer, ranked third on the team in tackles with 120.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden did not sound optimistic that June would play vs. the Giants on Sunday.
"He got his ankle rolled up on Sunday," Gruden said of June. "I am concerned. We'll update his status as the week develops."
If June cannot play vs. New York, Bucs sixth-year linebacker Ryan Nece likely would start at strongside linebacker in his place.
Nece, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2002, started 35 career games for the Buccaneers before being replace by June, who signed with Tampa Bay during the offseason.
"I know in Cato's mind he wants to play, but it's great to have Ryan if Cato can't play," said Bucs linebackers coach Gus Bradley. "Ryan has got a couple of years worth of game experience. We do have some new things, but he's a quick learner. Just going through all the stuff today he picked it up really quickly."
Normally when a player cannot practice throughout the week his chances of playing in a game dramatically decrease. While Tampa Bay wants June to play, Bradley feels he's one of the few players that could still play against New York even if his injury prevents him from practicing all week long.
"Everybody needs to practice, but I think Cato is a guy that understands the position well enough to pull that off," said Bradley.
Sears, who started all 16 regular season games for the Buccaneers, injured his ankle in Tampa Bay's regular season finale vs. Carolina.
If Sears can't play on Sunday, seventh-year veteran Matt Lehr would make his first start as a Buccaneer at left guard.
"I'd say he's progressing, but I don't know at what rate until we see him tomorrow," Gruden said of Sears. "He has made a little improvement."
In other practice news, Bucs wide receiver Joey Galloway was held out of Wednesday's workout at One Buccaneer Place as a team decision.
BUCS PLACE PETERSON ON IR, SIGN NICHOLSON
Injured Bucs players Cato June and Arron Sears are hoping to play vs. the New York Giants on Sunday. Unfortunately for defensive end Greg Peterson, his rookie season has already come to an end.
Tampa Bay placed Peterson, a fifth-round draft pick in April, on injured reserve after he sustained a hamstring injury vs. Carolina last Sunday. He finished the season with 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
The Bucs filled their vacant 53-man roster spot by signing safety Donte Nicholson, who originally entered the NFL with Tampa Bay as a 2005 fifth-round draft pick. He spent preseason and training camp with the Bucs before being released in late September.
Nicholson spent a brief amount of time on Tampa Bay's active roster in late September and early October due to a season-ending injury sustained by rookie S Sabby Piscitelli. If he is active for Sunday's playoff game, Nicholson will be expected to make an impact on special teams.
In addition to those roster moves, the Bucs signed guard Ryan Gibbons and tackle Alan Reuber to their practice squad and released cornerback Darrell Hunter and tackle Dennis Roland.
GIANTS AILING HEADING INTO PLAYOFF GAME
While Tampa Bay is dealing with its own injuries, New York isn't quite healthy heading into its playoff game with the Buccaneers.
The Giants attempted to hand the undefeated Patriots their first loss of the season in Week 17, but to no avail in a 38-35 loss.
Not only did New York lose the game, it lost three key starters – center Shaun O'Hara (knee), cornerback Sam Madison (stomach) and linebacker Kawika Mitchell – to their respective injuries.
Those three players and defensive end Dave Tollefson (concussion) were held out of Wednesday's practice in New York. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin told the Tampa media in a conference call that both O'Hara and Mitchell were showing some signs of improvement, but Madison was not progressing as well as initially hoped.
Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress (ankle) and CB Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) were limited in practice while WR Sinorice Moss (back) and running back Ahmad Bradshaw (calf) were a full-go in practice despite their injuries.
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