Just when the winless Bucs thought they had their full of wounded personnel comes news of the season-ending surgery to right tackle Kenyatta Walker.

Talk about adding injury to insult.

His bad knee finally gave out and Walker, maligned for much of his career by fans as Mr. Underachiever, is shut down for the rest of 2006.

The boo birds are giddy.

The Bucs are not.

Get this straight, in search of their first win of the season, the team in the last place in the NFC South Division is going to play a rookie quarterback making his first ever start and ask a rookie right tackle – making his first ever start – to help with protection.

You good with that?

Would anyone be surprised to hear that the Saints defensive linemen, so encouraged by their apparent sudden good fortune, have stockpiled lotto tickets?

I wouldn’t.

The problem is, this isn’t at all fair to Jeremy Trueblood, the second round draft pick from Boston College who will start in Walker’s place Sunday. Oh, and Trueblood’s was a left tackle in college.

Life ain’t fair.

From all angles, Trueblood seems to be the real deal with as much potential as height. And at a whopping 6-foot-8, Trueblood was, ultimately, going to replace Walker and join first round pick Davin Joseph as the right side blockade for years to come.

“I didn’t want Kenyatta to get hurt,” Trueblood told reporters. “The coaches are giving me a chance and I’m going to try to take advantage of it and see what happens…. You don’t play football to sit and cheer everybody on from the sidelines. I want to play.”

Trouble is, the Bucs weren’t ready for that to happen just yet. Most rookie linemen get time to find their niche and if they are in the starting place, it’s early in the day when the seas are calm. Not when their squad is watching the tide come in.

Now, it’s Trueblood’s turn and no one is going to cut him any slack. Not the coaches, not the Bucs and definitely not the Saints.

“It’s not easy coming in here as a left tackle your whole life and being a right tackle,” coach Jon Gruden said. “We’d like to say, ‘Hey, you’re going to be the starter here as soon as possible.’ To see Davin Joseph return from his injury as quickly as he has and go out here and practice with Trueblood on the right side, that’s good for our future. Those are two guys we’re
counting on to be a big part of this. But he’s got a great challenge.”

Trying to not pay a lot for your car insurance is a challenge. This task is  monumental!

Still, the Bucs tell you the offensive game plan will change little this Sunday. Trueblood or Walker, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is going to run the offense. It’s the party line and they’re sticking to it.

“No difference,” center John Wade said Monday, before Walker’s surgery. “Our offense is our offense and we’re going to run it. Bruce knows it. He’s going to make the calls, make the checks and we’re going to execute our game plan. Nothing is going to change.”

So Gradkowski is going to be asked to run the same version of the same offense the Bucs planned for Chris Simms in the season opener? No tweaks? No twists? No extra emphasis?

Not quite, left tackle Anthony Davis said.

“With us up front, we have to help Bruce out a whole lot more just because of his inexperience,” Davis said. “We should do that for all our quaterbacks. The other important thing we have to do is protect. We can’t let him get hit because we can’t let him get rattled. We can’t have him thinking about hits. We just have to give him more confidence.”

 


 

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