By Max Luckan
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a short week of practice and are getting ready to take on the Carolina Panthers on national television Thursday night on NFL Network.
At 0-6, things can’t get much worse for the Bucs, so they have almost nothing to lose. However, Bucs head coach Greg Schiano certainly does. There are plenty of rumors floating around that if Schiano loses this game, he could be on his way out of Tampa. While unconfirmed, the rumors make sense because any interim coach would have a pretty long time to prepare for the next opponent. For now, though, Schiano is focused on beating the Panthers.
On top of the poor play, the injuries are starting to pile on for the Bucs. Left guard Carl Nicks is still out because of surgery on his foot, and running back/kick returner Jeff Demps is also out due to surgery.
Bucs running back Doug Martin reportedly has a torn labrum. But the team is hopeful that Martin can return sometime this season. Martin won’t play against the Panthers Thursday, so running back Mike James is expected to get most of the reps, with Brian Leonard as his backup.
Safety Keith Tandy, who has been used sparingly this season, suffered a concussion and would have to get cleared by an independent neurologist before suiting up for Thursday’s game, and that’s unlikely to happen. Along with Tandy, safety Dashon Goldson has a knee injury that bothered him on Monday and Tuesday. Goldson was limited in practice both days, but should be healthy enough to play Thursday. If not, the Bucs have a problem with depth in the secondary.
Wide receiver Mike Williams, who still has that nagging hamstring injury, participated fully in practice on Monday, but was limited on Tuesday. That’s not good news for the Bucs, because it means Williams had some sort of setback. His status for Thursday is up in the air. If he can’t play, wide receiver Tiquan Underwood would likely take his place.
And right guard Davin Joseph is still battling a knee injury, meaning the Bucs offensive line is far from 100 percent healthy. Joseph will probably play against the Panthers, but he certainly won’t be at full strength.
Defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who has a wrist injury, participated fully on Monday and Tuesday, so he should be good to go. That is good news for the Bucs, as he has played consistently well all season long.
The Panthers are much healthier than the Bucs are at this point in the season. However, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, struggling with a hamstring injury, did not practice on Monday or Tuesday. If Edwards can’t play, that would be a huge loss for the Panthers on the defensive line, and rookie DT Kawann Short would get the start in Edwards’ place.
Panthers starting cornerback Josh Thomas missed practice on Tuesday because of an illness. That shouldn’t be a lingering issue, so Thomas will likely start in his normal place against the Bucs.
Linebacker Chase Blackburn has a foot injury, but he participated fully in practice on Monday and Tuesday for the Panthers and is expected to start on Thursday. Ditto for starting tight end Greg Olsen who also has a foot injury.
The fact that the Panthers are this healthy about halfway through the season is a positive sign, especially that they are now 3-3 and improving every week. If they can remain healthy, they have a legitimate playoff shot this year.
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.