The 10 plays middle linebacker Mason Foster lasted for against Green Bay were likely his last of 2014.
Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith didn’t rule the fourth-year pro out on Wednesday, but also didn’t paint a rosy picture of Foster’s situation.
“Mason Foster [has an] Achilles [injury], he did not practice today at all,” Smith said from the podium at One Buccaneer Place. “He hasn’t ruptured it yet, but it’s sore.”
Foster returned last week after sitting out the Bucs’ two-game road stretch at Detroit and Carolina because of the same injury, but re-aggravated it in the first quarter. If Foster sits out it would be his sixth missed game of the season. He was inactive for a three-game stretch Weeks 3-5 with a shoulder injury.
Backup Dane Fletcher handled the bulk of the snaps at middle linebacker when Foster went down. The 52 defensive snaps played was the most action Fletcher’s seen since filling in for Foster earlier this year. Fellow backup Orie Lemon had been getting extensive late-season looks but did not take a single snap at linebacker against Green Bay. The Bucs’ heavy use of nickel packages meant two-linebacker sets that limited the action for players at that position.
Prior to Smith’s comments Wednesday, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier held his weekly press conference and spoke about the team’s struggles at middle linebacker, Foster’s availability issues and his possible future on this Bucs defense.
“Well that’s an important cog in the puzzle, the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense,” Frazier said after being asked about inconsistencies at the position this year. “He’s very important to your system. It’s unfortunate that Mason has kind of been in and out with the injuries throughout the season, but that’s given guys like Dane and Danny [Lansanah] some opportunities. But you would like to have a guy you’re preparing with every week throughout the course of the season.
“Injuries happen in our league, which means other guys have to step up. Dane and Danny, they’ve done a pretty good job for us, but you’d like to have a starting Mike that you can count on week in and week out.”
Foster’s fit in Smith and Frazier’s defense is uncertain moving forward and the coordinator was asked if 6-foot-1, 241-pounder could get looks at playing on the outside next year. This was the final year of Foster’s four-year, $2,784,372 rookie contract and he’ll become a free agent this spring.
“He could possibly play outside,” Frazier said. “We see him more as a middle linebacker here for what we do. Right now it’s not our mindset to move him outside. As I mentioned, it’s unfortunate that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field on a more regular basis. But we think he can play middle linebacker and play it well, so we’re not thinking in that direction.”
Foster entered the season having appeared in 47 of 48 career games over three seasons prior to his injury-marred 2014. He’s played only 53 percent of the team’s 1,043 total defensive snaps and is fifth on the team in total tackles, with 62. Foster’s credited with two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits and three passes defensed.
Lansanah’s emergence this season has made Foster expendable. Foster is also injury-prone.
Merry Christmas to the Buccaneers and all my fellow posters.
Merry CHRISTMAS Horse and all of the Pewter Report family!
Same to you Horse, bucjoe and everyone.
This defense needs a different middle linebacker and a defensive end.
I think Mason will get a good offer in the off-season. He is a very good linebacker, but I don’t think this is the scheme for him.
All I want for xmas is the #1 pick in the draft!!
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Merry Christmas Scott, Mark and team, and all the PR Buc fans!
Not a Foster fan, but he did play in 47 of 48 prior to this year. Tough to call him injury prone bucfan26, as it seems this year was the exception and not the rule. Would like to see someone like Perryman, Hendricks, McKinney, Ryan or Hull brought in at MLB though. Hopefully Lovie and staff will be coaching the Senior Bowl, as a few of those guys have accepted their invite.
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I know the NFL is a bottom line business and decisions are most times based on performance and value.
But I’m a fan. I don’t have to always think like that. I can allow my emotions to come into play. In other words I can say “I like that guy!” and be guided by my heart.
There are 3 players I want to play on my team – Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, and Mason Foster. The Bucs may see it differently!
I myself would like to see a faster stronger MLB so I am incline to let him seek his market value which I’m not sure what that really might be. I’m thinking 5 million for 3 years with 1.5 guaranteed?
Remember I said from the Preseason on that Foster cannot play MLB in Tampa Two. 3.75 is too slow to cover the seam. However, if he bulks up he can make the Pro Bowl as our SLB. We need our first four picks for Marriota and three OL in our draft. You won’t find a MLB in the 5th round who can start. However, the Bucs can snatch Max off the Texan’s practice squad who is an Urlacher Clone and who could start there for us next year. He is deadly stopping runs and fast enough to cover the deep seam and at 6’3″ can also swat down passes or intercept them if catchable.
Bullough may be a good idea. We already have Denicos Allen on our PS – the LB that paired up with Bullough at Michigan State and was the most feared pair of LBs in the Big Ten.
I remember Frazier’s first presser at the Bucs where he said that MLB was a needed and critical position for the Cover 2. He called out McCoy and David, but never mentioned Foster.
There should be a spot for him. We are paying Fletcher twice what we are paying Foster and Foster is clearly a better LB.
Remember, Foster has been hurt for most of the season after losing about 10lbs to get faster. I don’t know what the FA market (Redskins) will bear, but I hope he stays! I like Ric Flair!
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