The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have to take the field in New England on Saturday without one of their starting defensive linemen.

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland is doubtful for the Bucs’ upcoming game vs. the Patriots after sustaining a hamstring injury during the first half of Sunday’s game vs. the Carolina Panthers.

If history is any indication, McFarland could be sidelined for several weeks. The former first-round draft pick has missed a total of 19 games since the 2001 regular season, including eight contests in 2004, due to various injuries. However, the Bucs remain hopeful that McFarland will return to the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

“We can only speculate,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of the timetable for McFarland’s return. “We are just going to list him as doubtful for this week. And we’ll see how he responds to treatment. Some guys respond differently than others. So we’ll cross our fingers.”

The Bucs have a number of players who can fill the void left by McFarland at the under tackle position. The list of candidates includes Ellis Wyms, Jon Bradley, Dewayne White and rookie Anthony Bryant.

Although Chris Hovan has spent the entire season playing nose tackle, he is also a player who has the ability to play the three-technique position in Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme. However, the Bucs do not want to move Hovan, who has played extremely well this season.

“Yeah, he made a bunch of plays yesterday,” Gruden said of Hovan, who had five tackles on Sunday “He’s a hard guy to block. He’s relentless and he’s big and he’s mean as hell. He’s a guy who we like and another guy who we hope to re-sign on our team at the end of this season. He’s really brought another – I don’t know what the word is – he’s really brought some stuff to that group in there. His charisma, his leadership, his work ethic is top-notch. And he’s a good player, also.”

The Bucs are leaning toward starting Wyms at under tackle, but that decision will be made official later in the week. Even if Wyms does start, the Bucs will likely work players like Bradley, White and/or Bryant into the rotation on Saturday.

In other injury news, Bucs linebacker Marquis Cooper, who has missed two consecutive games with a chest injury, will likely play vs. the Patriots.

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