By Max Luckan
As the 2013 regular season progresses, teams are already starting to feel the effects of missing key starters because of injuries. So far, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only had to deal with a few injuries during the season, but of course, that could change at any given moment.
Injuries certainly are the last the thing the Bucs could use at this point, as the team is desperately looking for its first win of the season for multiple reasons, mainly as a distraction from all the controversy that has been surrounding the Bucs early on in the season. It looks like the Bucs will be relatively healthy as they head to New England to play the Patriots.
Left guard Carl Nicks remains the team’s biggest question mark injury-wise, but he’s progressing week by week and the expectation is that Nicks will finally be ready to return against the Patriots. Nicks said after practice Wednesday that his toe feels good and that he would have played in Week 1 had it been up to him.
“If I had it my way, I’d play Week 1,” Nicks said Wednesday, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “But obviously, I wasn’t ready. When I say, ‘We’ll see,’ it’s if I get the okay from the big guys upstairs. You kind of see your team struggle. You know you could have done something to help. It’s frustrating,” he said. “If I get back out there this week, I should be able to [help].”
Running back Doug Martin has played well and has been the main source of offense for the Bucs, but he’s played without his top offensive lineman, which could change this week. Quarterback Josh Freeman, who has struggled immensely through the first two weeks, would also welcome Nicks’ return to the lineup.
Defensive tackle Derek Landri will miss a few weeks with an MCL injury, according to head coach Greg Schiano. Landri’s absence should give rookie defensive end William Gholston some additional snaps, as the Bucs are relatively thin on the defensive line.
Tight end Luke Stocker has been limited in practice because of a hip injury, but Stocker is expected to suit up against the Patriots. Meanwhile, linebacker Mason Foster and defensive end Adrian Clayborn both participated fully on Thursday after being limited in Wednesday’s practice. Tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle) returned to practice on Thursday, but he’s a long shot to play this Sunday. Guard Gabe Carimi was held out of Thursday’s practice because of illness and cornerback Michael Adams also didn’t participate, and he probably won’t play.
The Patriots haven’t been nearly as explosive on offense as they’d like because quarterback Tom Brady has been handicapped by injuries to his receivers. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is still recovering from back and forearm injuries, is unlikely to play against the Bucs, which means tight end Zach Sudfeld, who is dealing with his own injury, will once again have to step up. Wide receiver Danny Amendola, who has been hampered by a groin injury, will also likely sit out the game against the Bucs, meaning young receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson will have to step up again along with Julian Edelman, who has quickly become Brady’s favorite target.
Running back Leon Washington was limited in Thursday’s practice due to a thigh injury, but he’s expected to handle return duties for the Patriots this Sunday. Guard Dan Connolly was limited in practice because of a finger injury, but his status for Sunday’s game remains up in the air.
Brady would like to have as many weapons as possible on offense against a strong Bucs’ defense, but he will probably have to rely on a couple of rookies like he did against the New York Jets.
The good news for the Patriots, however, is that they are relatively healthy on the defensive side of the ball, which could be a key factor against a Bucs’ offense that is sputtering along.
For more Bucs news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
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. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.