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Lost in Tampa Bay's 0-5 start to the 2009 regular season has been safety Jermaine Phillips as it relates to concerns over his injured thumb and playing career.
Phillips, 30, was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 22 after sustaining a fractured thumb in the first quarter of Tampa Bay's Week 2 contest at Buffalo.
A 2002 fifth-round pick out of Georgia, Phillips attempted to keep playing in that game. He didn't just break his thumb – Phillips seriously injured it to the point where it required intense surgery.
"I have what they call a powder fracture," Phillips said of his left thumb. "It happened the first play of the game on the reverse to T.O. I finished out the game, trying to be the tough guy. Once I hit it the bone pretty much shattered into six different pieces. This wasn't something where they could fix it and get me back in a week or so. They had to put pins in to piece it back together. It takes time to heal. It should be okay, it's just going to be a long road ahead."
Phillips is wearing a cast that starts at his surgically repaired thumb and runs all the way up his forearm. He hopes to have the cast removed soon.
"I have four pins that are sticking out of the skin that are holding it together," said Phillips. "Everything looks good right now. We'll see. I hope to be back throwing the body around in no time."
With Tanard Jackson still serving his four-game suspension for violation of the league's substance abuse policy, Phillips, who is one of two Bucs players from the Super Bowl XXXVII team still on the roster, stayed in the game in an effort to help his team. But he was part of a Bucs defense that missed 24 tackles and allowed the Bills to produce over 200 yards rushing.
"I didn't know how bad I broke it, but I knew I had broken it as soon as I did it," said Phillips. "I didn't tell anybody about it. I just came to the sideline and told the trainer, ‘Hey, can you just wrap this up for me?' Then I told [cornerback] Ronde [Barber] and [safety] Sabby [Piscitelli], ‘Man, I just broke my thumb, but I have to keep playing.' That's what I kept thinking and saying.
"I wanted to play and still thought I could help. It started to get worse towards the end of the game, and I probably should have sat down at that point. That's a decision that if I had over again I would change and make a different choice. I'm a competitor. I don't regret going out there. It's just that towards the end I couldn't use my arm, so I was using my shoulder to try and thumb everyone down instead of wrapping up. From that standpoint, I hated it because I felt like I let my team down. Hey, it's football. We're competitors, and we like to think of ourselves as warriors. As long as it's not life-threatening we can play with it."
There was a chance he could have returned to action in December, but Phillips, who started the year at linebacker before moving back to safety at the start of the regular season, would have occupied a valuable 53-man roster spot. The Bucs couldn't justify it, which led to Phillips being placed on injured reserve.
His season is officially over, and some wonder if Phillips' NFL career might suffer a similar fate. He has, after all, underwent seven different surgeries on his forearms/hands during his eight-year career.
As a result, Phillips, who has started over 70 games at safety, missed 18 contests in his first seven seasons with the Bucs. By the time the 2009 season ends, Phillips will have been sidelined for 32 games in eight seasons, an average of four per year.
Phillips' forearm injuries hindered his efforts in free agency, which led him back to Tampa Bay to sign a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Even if he makes a full recovery, the thumb ailment could hinder Phillips' ability to sign with a team in 2010, including Tampa Bay.
"I don't worry about that," said Phillips. "I mean, this injury happened when the bottom of a cleat came down as my hand was going up. That would have happened to anybody. With the forearms, I have the plates and braces in place. Maybe I'll be labeled an injury-prone guy, but all I need is someone to take a chance on me and I'll be back out there in no time."
In the meantime, Phillips has been hanging around One Buccaneer Place as much as possible to lend support to his teammates. The Bucs are off to a 0-5 start, which has been frustrating for Phillips to watch from the sideline.
"It's just hard because I know what we have on this team and how much talent is on this team and what we're capable of," said Phillips. "We just need to get that first win and then you never know what can happen after that. It's important to stay focused, stay motivated and keep the negative energy out of this place. This is the situation we're in right now, but it's not the one we have to stay in. That's what I'm trying to tell the guys."
Bucs Players On The Trade Block? At 0-5 and the NFL trade deadline (Week 6) approaching, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are all ears in terms of acquiring new players and dealing some of their own.
The Bucs likely will have a top 10 draft pick in 2010, so the team will look to address several needs then. However, the Bucs are open to dealing for veterans if the price is right.
But Tampa Bay isn't looking to trade premium draft picks for veteran players, which means the team might have to use their own players to acquire new ones or draft picks.
The problem is the Bucs don't have much to trade. Bucs fans have inquired about the possibility of Tampa Bay trading some of its veteran players, but there aren't a lot of players that would command much value.
Bucs middle linebacker Barrett Ruud might have the most trade value. He has led Tampa Bay's defense in tackles the past two years and is in the final year of his contract. The Bucs have a second-round pick invested in Ruud, and there's a chance the Bucs could receive a 2010 second-rounder for him. However, the Bucs don't have players behind Ruud that could fill his shoes, which means Tampa Bay likely would have to invest a high draft pick in a middle linebacker next year.
The same logic would apply to Tampa Bay left tackle Donald Penn, who is in the final year of his contract. Like Ruud, Penn wants a new deal, and based on his play through five games he's earned one. Good left tackles are tough to come by (see the Bucs' failed signings of Derrick Deese and Luke Petitgout). It is unlikely Penn would fetch first-round pick, which wouldn't make him worth trading.
The Bucs have been disappointed in defensive end Gaines Adams' play, so it's difficult to imagine another team would be willing to give up anything more than a third- or fourth-round draft pick for the former first-round selection. The Bucs would also take an $11 million salary cap hit by parting ways with Adams, who has 13.5 career sacks, this year.
One player that might generate some significant interest on the trade market is DE Jimmy Wilkerson, who notched three sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wilkerson, 28, has five sacks through five games, which already matches his sack total from last year. In fact, Wilkerson has notched 10 of his 11 career sacks as a Buccaneer. Wilkerson is considered a good locker room guy and right now he's the best defensive lineman the team has and one of the few that is worth building around, so it's difficult to imagine the Bucs would be offered enough trade value to deal Wilkerson, who is in the final year of his contract.
Wide receivers Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton have not lived up to expectations this season. They've combined for just 22 receptions and one touchdown through five games. Although he's the more productive of the two, Bryant might be difficult to trade since he carries a $9.88 million salary and still is dealing with knee issues following his preseason surgery. Clayton re-signed with Tampa Bay during the offseason, inking a five-year, $23 million deal. With $33 million in salary cap room, the Bucs can afford to deal Clayton and absorb a salary cap hit from his new deal. He has seven drops on the season and no touchdowns. Another team might see value in Clayton's blocking ability, but teams will also see the former first-round pick's seven dropped passes on the season.
Figurs Signing A Curious One Is anyone else still trying to figure out the Yamon Figurs signing?
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris was critical of Tampa Bay's wide receivers, particularly Michael Clayton, for dropped passes against the Eagles last Sunday.
One day later, the Bucs worked out five free agent wide receivers. There were some talented players at One Buc Place Tuesday, including former first-round pick Matt Jones, former Giant David Tyree and receivers Yamon Figurs, Chris Davis and Jordan Kent.
While he wasn't the least productive player the Bucs worked out (Davis and Kent have fewer career receptions), Figurs was the player the Bucs signed.
A former third-round draft pick, Figurs has three career receptions and one touchdown. The Bucs felt the need to sign a receiver that can help stretch the field. He has the speed to do that, evidenced by his 4.30 time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. However, former Bucs second-round pick Dexter Jackson had the speed to do that, too, but it didn't make him a competent receiver.
Figurs is an accomplished return specialist, but the Bucs already have one in running back Clifton Smith, who made the Pro Bowl last year.
The Bucs have little to lose by signing Figurs, but one has to wonder if he will truly bring anything worthwhile to Tampa Bay's struggling offense. Tampa Bay could use a speed receiver and a guy that can simulate speed in practice to help the defense, but more importatly, it needs a receiver that can catch footballs, which Figurs has done just three times in the NFL.
Longest Current Losing Streaks In NFL The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lost nine straight games dating back to the 2008 regular season. The Bucs are just 1-12 during that stretch if you count the team's 2009 preseason (1-3).
As promised, Pewter Report will keep this chart going as long as the Bucs remain winless in 2009. Tampa Bay currently ranks tied for second in the NFL for the longest losing streak in regular season play.
A loss on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers would establish Tampa Bay's second-longest losing streak in franchise history, only behind the Bucs' 0-26 start from 1976-77.