FB Mike Alstott needed the help of trainers to leave the field after a knee injury on Sunday in Chicago
If there was a silver lining for Mike Alstott on Sunday, however miniscule, it was that he got his own row on a crowded airplane.
Alstott needed three seats to prop up his left leg, which was encased in a brace from thigh to ankle. Earlier in the afternoon, in the second quarter of Tampa Bay's 13-10 loss at Chicago, Alstott had suffered a knee injury that finished him for the day.
Is he also done for the month? The season? That answer won't be available until Monday morning, after he has undergone a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam on the knee to determine just what is injured and how badly. If it is damage to the medial collateral ligament (MCL), as the Buccaneer trainers think it may be, Alstott will definitely miss some playing time, but surgery is not likely to be needed. Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) would be a more serious injury.
The injury occurred on just his second carry of the game, a three-yard run behind left guard Randall McDaniel from near midfield, but it was difficult to observe what happened to the fullback as he was engulfed by a pile of Bears. Alstott, as he often does, hit the pile just beyond the line of scrimmage and was driving it forward.
As his forward progress was stopped, his left leg became implanted in the turf and he couldn't lift it because he was trapped by the other bodies. The pile then began to move sidewise, with Alstott's lower leg the only part of him not going in that direction. Because that movement happened gradually, Alstott could actually feel the injury happen slowly.
Immediately after Alstott undergoes his MRI on Monday morning, S John Lynch will step up for his exam. Lynch went out even earlier than Alstott, suffering a dislocated left shoulder midway through the first quarter. The hard-hitting safety had broken through the line on a carry by RB James Allen and had tried to make an arm tackle when the shoulder became dislocated, to his surprise. It was set back in place on the sideline but Lynch could not return to the game.
That doesn't necessarily mean that Lynch will be out for a long period of time, however. It is likely that he will need surgery on the shoulder at some point, but not necessarily before the season ends, depending on the results of the MRI. On the plane, Lynch indicated that his shoulder was stiff but that he wasn't in pain. He will be treated with anti-inflammatories and the training staff will attempt to get strength back in his rotator cuff.
Lynch, in fact, might be helped by the fact that this is not his first left shoulder dislocation. A pre-NFL injury of the same variety made him more of a target for this injury but also made the subsequent injury less severe. A player who suffers a shoulder dislocation for the first time, according to the training staff, is likely to miss four to seven weeks because there would be significant tearing in the ligaments and tendons.
Head Coach Tony Dungy is likely to reveal more about the conditions of Lynch and Alstott at his day-after-game press conference on Monday (carried live on Buccaneers.com at 12:30 in the Broadcast Network box). After the game, Dungy was reluctant to put any blame on those ailments for the team's disappointing loss.
"The injuries didn't really affect us," said Dungy. "You hate see guys go out and get hurt, but as far was what we were trying to do out there, it didn't have any effect on our plans. John has a dislocated shoulder that came out and went back in. I'm not sure how bad that's going to be over the long haul. Mike has some damage in his knee, but we won't know the extent of it until tomorrow."
Some of the other Buccaneers had postgame thoughts about the loss of Alstott and other topics.
RB Warrick Dunn on the loss: "We had our chances to make things happen. We just didn't get it done. We came out in the third quarter and moved the ball down the field. We had really gained some momentum and then I fumbled. That's tough, but that was how the game went."
Dunn on Chicago's defense: "The Bears played great team defense. They were two-gapping the line and they blitzed, putting some pressure on us. I don't think that preparation or the pressure was a factor, though. I just think those guys made more plays than we did. And we had turnovers. Turnovers lose games. Those guys played hard, though, and their young guys played well. They played team defense. You have to give them credit for making plays down the stretch when they had to."
Dunn on the loss of Alstott: "I don't think it really had an effect. Some guys may have maybe played a little harder because one of their guys is down, but I don't think it mattered. I knew I was going to get the ball, and other people need to step up in that situation."
QB Shaun King on Brian Urlacher's interception: "I was trying to throw over Brian and it came out of my hand funny. I'm not making any excuses (about the wind or the cold) because they have to play in the same environment we do. When you turn the ball over, it's tough to win."
King on the loss: "This is another case of us hurting ourselves. If we protect the ball and convert some of our third downs, I think it's a different outcome. We just didn't make enough plays to win. I thought we had our chances and we didn't capitalize on them. And it all comes back to me. I'll stand up for it and I have to play better."
DT Warren Sapp on the loss of Alstott: "You can't replace him. We won't be able to until he puts his pads back on and comes back and plays for us. We still have to move on. That's just how this game is played."
Sapp on the play of Tampa Bay's defense: "We still had a chance to win the ballgame. They did nothing spectacular on offense. We were moving the ball pretty well on offense and going in to score…we just turned the ball over. The eliminates your chance of scoring points. That's all we needed tonight; a couple more points and we win this game. They still haven't scored a touchdown on (the defense)."