QB Shaun King has done more running and dodging than passing in recent weeks
In the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' last two games, quarterback Shaun King has been sacked 11 times and has run the ball 16 times for 80 yards and two diving touchdowns. You couldn't blame King if he's a little slow getting out of bed in the morning.
King, however, has an aching in his lower back that is perhaps a little more significant than that, though not a major worry to the Buccaneers.
"Shaun has got some back pain," said Head Coach Tony Dungy on Monday, after King was sacked seven times by the Buffalo Bills. "We're trying to get to the source of it right now. I don't know how it's going to be this week. He wasn't as comfortable after the game as we would like, but I guess we'll monitor that during the week."
Truth be told, most of King's sacks on Sunday were not particularly violent; often, he would attempt to juke the defender he was facing, only to be grabbed around the waist and pulled down. Neither King nor the team is blaming any specific play for the injury, but they are still in search of a specific cause.
"I think they're still looking at it," said Dungy. "I don't think it's any one particular blow or anything that happened. It's just something he's complained about for the last couple of weeks, and it seems to be getting a little bit worse.
"We're getting some opinions on it. We don't seem to have it pinpointed exactly what it is."
In the meantime, King is receiving the royal treatment in the Buccaneers' training room, where he spent virtually all of Monday morning. Head Trainer Todd Toriscelli and the Bucs' medical staff is treating the injury with heat, message, stretching and rest, and King's back is responding already. In fact, King made noticeable improvement from Monday morning to the afternoon.
In addition, the training staff was pleased by the results of X-rays to King's back, which showed no structural damage of any kind.
Does that mean he'll be able to practice on Wednesday, when the team begins on-field preparations for the Dallas Cowboys? Not necessarily. The Bucs are taking a day-to-day approach on King and consider it a 50-50 chance that he'll participate in that first practice.
"I'm not sure yet," said Dungy. "We'll probably know that on Wednesday. We're hopeful that he will, but right now, it would be questionable whether he's going to practice on Wednesday or not."
If King isn't cleared by Wednesday, then backup Eric Zeier would get additional reps in practice. "It depends on how Shaun is," said Dungy. "If he's ready to practice and go, then he'll get the normal reps. But it may be a case that Eric is practicing early in the week."
RB Aaron Stecker was also moving slowly on Monday, though his source of pain is the left knee, which he sprained against the Bills on the opening kickoff while blocking for WR Karl Williams. Stecker was the second Buccaneer running back to go down early in two weeks, but it does not appear as if Stecker's injury is nearly as severe as that suffered by FB Mike Alstott in Chicago last week. Alstott will miss the remainder of the regular season at a minimum; Stecker is not expected to have an extended absence.
"Aaron doesn't seem to have any cartilage damage in there," said Dungy. "That's what we were concerned about yesterday. He does have a lot of swelling and he's having trouble walking today. I think he'll be day-to-day as well, but it doesn't look like it's a long-term injury."
If Stecker joins Alstott on the sideline for Sunday's game against the Cowboys, that would leave the team with just three healthy backs: Warrick Dunn, Rabih Abdullah and fullback Charles Kirby. That might seem to put Tampa Bay in the running back market, but only if Stecker was to miss a block of games.
"We'll take a look at it," said Dungy of the free agent crop of backs. "If it was going to be a long-term thing, we might look at it. If it's just maybe one week, we probably wouldn't."
Perhaps the Bucs are coming to expect good news on the injury front after safety John Lynch's inspirational return to the lineup on Sunday. Just one week after dislocating his left shoulder in Chicago, an injury that Dungy seemed almost positive would keep him out against Buffalo, Lynch started against the Bills and played almost every snap.
Lynch played the game while wearing a harness that kept his left arm from moving too far upward while extended out to the side of the body. Lynch could still move his arm forward and up, which is crucial to his hard-hitting tackling technique. Though a couple of hits appeared to cause him some pain on Sunday, Lynch was in good shape on Monday.
"John is actually feeling pretty well," said Dungy. "He came through it okay. Really, that's what we were told by the doctors…blows to the shoulder and contact would not hurt it or damage it. It was just if he got it in an awkward position. He had a harness on and he felt confident that he would make it through okay, and he did."
One of the team's toughest players, Lynch surprised no one by wanting to play against Buffalo. However, it wasn't his decision alone.
"I think it was all of us," said Dungy. "It was Todd and the docs and John and Herm (Edwards) really deciding what was going to be best for John and best for the team. But once we had the assurance medically, it was easier to just ask John how he was doing and how he thought about it."