Rookie WR Sammie Stroughter helped pick up the slack in the season opener after Antonio Bryant left the game
The Buccaneers hope starting receiver Antonio Bryant (knee) will be able to play Sunday in Buffalo, but if he can't his contributions may be replaced by a trio of reserve receivers…Plus additional injury updates
When Antonio Bryant came out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season-opener against Dallas last Sunday, he was essentially replaced by three men.
The Buccaneers may have to do something similar this coming Sunday in Buffalo.
Bryant played roughly three quarters against the Cowboys but missed the endgame when the knee on which he had arthroscopic surgery in August began to act up. Through three quarters, Tampa Bay's trio of receiver reserves – Brian Clark, Maurice Stovall and Sammie Stroughter – had combined to catch one pass for two yards. In the final period, those three combined for four receptions and 53 yards.
Clearly, the Buccaneers have specific plans for each of those substitutes, as was also evidenced when all three were kept among the team's 45 game-day actives. Those plans will be a more prominent part of the game plan in Buffalo if Bryant's knee continues to be a problem.
"We've got a nice rotation there," said Morris. "All those guys have helmets on [on game day]. It's hard to say who will start, especially with our offense. We come out with different personnel groups and do different things with different people, so it's hard to say who will start."
The Bucs would like to say that Bryant is starting, and that is still very possible. However, the team's 2008 receiving leader was held completely out of practice on Thursday after participating in a limited fashion on Wednesday. There has no new injury for Bryant; he simply has to deal with the lingering effects of his surgery, which include pain and swelling. For that reason, it's difficult to guess during midweek practices how Bryant will feel on game day. So Morris isn't bothering to guess; he's simply working with the players available to him at the time.
"I'm not in the business of anticipation," said the coach. "I'm in the business of, if you show up to work I'm going to play you. I've just got to wait and lean on my doctors, lean on my people around me, lean on Antonio that they'll let me know."
Morris said that he is not concerned that Bryant's knee irritation will continue well into the season, making him a question mark for week to week.
"[I'm] just disappointed for his sake," said Morris, referring to Bryant's inability to practice on Thursday. "You want Antonio to play, of course. Obviously, there's disappointment. But we've got guys on this team that play, we've got guys on this team that have got to go in there. Obviously, we want Antonio to play for us, but if he's not there the next man has to step up. That's what happens on every team. Everybody lost a starter this week, everybody's losing somebody every week so you just deal."
The Bucs are dealing with a relatively short injury list, though it has quite a bit of potential impact. In addition to Bryant, the Bucs have another offensive starter on the list, center Jeff Faine (triceps), and he will definitely not play on Sunday against Buffalo, or probably for several more weeks after that. Defensive end Kyle Moore (groin) and cornerback E.J. Biggers (shoulder), a pair of 2009 draft choices, also did not practice for the second straight day. Both Moore and Biggers missed the season opener with their current injuries.
Tight end John Gilmore (ankle) practiced for the second straight day, though he was still limited; Gilmore was held out of the opener. Safety Jermaine Phillips (calf) was added to the report on Thursday after being limited on the practice field but he assured onlookers in the locker room later that he would be able to play against Buffalo.
The Bills had two changes to their injury report on Thursday, both in regards to their starting defensive ends. The news appeared to be good regarding left end Chris Kelsay, who didn't practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury but returned in a limited fashion on Thursday. Right end Aaron Schobel, on the other hand, went in the opposite direction. He did not appear on the injury report on Wednesday but was added on Thursday after not practicing due to a back ailment.