In a Zoom conference call with local reporters, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said that only one player will not be healthy enough to start the season – free safety Justin Evans, who missed all of last year on injured reserve with foot injuries. Arians said that Evans will start training camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
“He’ll probably be on PUP and we’ll see how the right foot reacts,” Arians said. “He doesn’t have a lot of time but he needs to be out there. He’s the only one right now that I think will be on PUP.”
Evans, a second-round pick in 2017, saw his first two seasons in Tampa Bay end on injured reserve prior to missing the entire 2019 campaign. Evans’ foot injuries date back to November of 2018 when he was placed on I.R.
Tampa Bay hoped he would recover during the offseason and be able to compete in training camp, but that never materialized, and Evans’ gamble that rest – rather than surgery – didn’t pay off. Evans returned to practice for a week prior to the final preseason game, but couldn’t go as the pain returned. He finally opted for surgery on both of his heels and missed the 2019 campaign.
During his absence, young safeties Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards, last year’s third-round pick, got valuable playing time and showed improvement, and veteran Andrew Adams was also re-signed. The fact that the Bucs spent a second-round pick on free safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. is evidence that the team isn’t counting on Evans to return to action in 2020.
Even if Evans is healthy enough to take the field in training camp, can his level of play return to the level it was prior to his injury? And can he shake off the rust to be able to beat out Whitehead, Edwards, Adams and D’Cota Dixon, a promising young safety whose season ended in training camp due to a shoulder injury, for a roster spot? The fact that the Bucs drafted Winfield so high suggests to me that the answer is no.