After scoring the game-winning touchdown in a 31-24 victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday night, wide receiver Paris Warren would have liked to have gotten up and celebrated with his teammates. However, Warren was on the ground for several minutes before being carted off the field with a dislocated left ankle. Warren, who was battling for a 53-man roster spot, finished the game with seven receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

While he was being looked over by the medical staff in the south end zone at Raymond James Stadium, the entire Bucs team came over and stood at the goal line wanting to make sure their teammate was okay. It was a great sign of camaraderie as practically every teammate shook Warren’s hand before he was carted off the field.

“I believe it was a terrible dislocated ankle,” head coach Jon Gruden said. “It was a freak thing. On the touchdown reception you could see that the ball was slightly under thrown and he was pulled down from behind. It was ugly. I think you saw our team out there and it was a credit to see how important he was to our guys.”

Quarterback Luke McCown understands what it feels like not to make it to the season opener. One year after his trade from Cleveland, McCown tore his ACL during OTA’s last season and missed most of 2006 due to the injury. Warren and McCown are really good friends off the field and McCown hated to see this happen to his friend.

“Paris is a great player. He really is one of the classy players on this team,” McCown said. “To do what he’s done out here and play all the positions, he’s such a great football player. That’s what he is, he’s a football player. He’s a great friend and my heart is literally broken for him tonight.”

Gruden, who has had to deal with a plethora of injuries during his coaching career in Tampa Bay, was visibly shaken as he walked back to the sideline after seeing Warren’s injury. Even though injuries are part of the game, some injuries are tougher than others for players and coaches.

“I’m obviously very disappointed with Paris Warren – his season is over,” Gruden said. “It puts a real stain on tonight’s effort.”

Warren’s performance against the Texans and his total body of work in preseason, which included 15 catches for 191 yards and four touchdowns, was enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster with the Bucs. However, now Warren will be put on injured reserve and his season is over before it ever began.

“Tonight we really wanted to see a lot of Paris Warren, Jerramy Stevens, and a couple of other guys,” Gruden said. “Well we did, but it’s unfortunate that the reward for having a great training camp and playing outstanding in the preseason is IR. That’s the reward you get, and that’s a shame. But he has a great future and he’s going to play.”

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