By Max Luckan
The St. Louis Rams will travel to Tampa to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The Bucs have lost four games in a row, and the Rams are currently on a one-game losing streak. Last week, the Bucs absolutely embarrassed themselves against the Saints and lost 41-0. It wasn’t even that close. The Saints could have easily scored 56 points. Meanwhile, the Rams played a gritty Minnesota Vikings team led by Adrian Peterson. They were able to contain quarterback Christian Ponder, but Peterson had a huge game, and St. Louis suffered a 36-22 loss. Both teams are about as healthy as they can be heading into the second-to-last week of the NFL season.
The Bucs have already placed many players on injured reserve, but other than that are relatively healthy this late in the regular season. Defensive end Aaron Morgan barely practiced all week, and did not practice at all on Friday. He’s listed as doubtful on the final injury report with a shoulder injury. Morgan has been playing behind starter Michael Bennett, but the Bucs are lacking depth on the defensive line because of injuries, so his injury could force the starters to play more. Head coach Greg Schiano said the Bucs aren’t really “sure” about Morgan’s status for Sunday’s game.
Cornerback LeQuan Lewis is listed as questionable with a knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago, but he did participate in practice all week, so he should play. This should help a Bucs’ secondary that’s very thin and also struggling mightily.
Defensive end Michael Bennett, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, linebacker Lavonte David, tight end Luke Stocker, and wide receiver Mike Williams are all listed as probable on Friday’s injury report.
Meanwhile, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan did not practice all week, and he’s listed as questionable because of a thigh injury. If Finnegan can’t play against the Bucs, rookie corner Trumaine Johnson will likely take over for him. Of course, having a rookie start would help Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who hasn’t been particularly accurate in recent weeks.
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis is listed as probable on the injury report, but he did miss Wednesday’s practice with a back injury. Laurinaitis was also limited on Thursday because of the injury, but participated with no limitations on Friday. However, Laurinaitis could be slowed down by the back injury, which could be good news for the Bucs’ running game and Doug Martin. Martin hasn’t shown the same explosiveness during this current losing streak. Another reason they haven’t been able to get Martin going is the fact that the Bucs have been falling behind early in games, and they’ve had to abandon the running game at times.
Rams running back Steven Jackson missed Thursday’s practice because of an illness and he was limited on Friday. But Jackson is fully expected to play in Sunday’s game against the Bucs and is listed as probable.
Players placed on IR aside, both teams are uncharacteristically healthy for it being this late in the regular season. This can be partly attributed to luck, but also the outstanding work by both coaching staffs and the trainers.
Full Injury Report
DE Michael Bennett (shoulder)
DE Da’Quan Bowers (hamstring)
LB Lavonte David (knee)
TE Luke Stocker (head, nose)
WR Mike Williams (wrist)
CB LeQuan Lewis (knee)
DE Aaron Morgan (shoulder)
CB Bradley Fletcher (illness)
RB Steven Jackson (illness)
LB James Laurinaitis (back)
DE Robert Quinn (illness)
C Scott Wells (knee)
CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh)
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.