DE Julian Jenkins played in 12 games in his rookie season, contributing nine tackles
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' unusually busy final week continued on Friday afternoon when rookie defensive end Julian Jenkins was placed on injured reserve. Earlier in the day, the Bucs had placed one of Jenkins' fellow 2006 draftees, cornerback Alan Zemaitis, on injured reserve as well.
While the team immediately filled Zemaitis' open roster spot with the promotion of practice squad running back Lionel Gates, the new opening created by Jenkins' move was not addressed on Friday. The Bucs could still sign a 53rd player on Saturday and have him be eligible for Sunday's season finale against the Seattle Seahawks.
Jenkins, a 6-3, 277-pound linemen capable of playing either end or tackle, appeared in 12 of the Bucs' first 15 games, including the last seven. However, he suffered an ankle injury against Cleveland last week and had been downgraded on the Bucs' official injury report to doubtful on Thursday.
Jenkins had played primarily at end since the loss of Simeon Rice to injured reserve and had contributed nine tackles. The Bucs selected the former Stanford star in the fifth round of last April's draft, believing he could be another valuable end/tackle swingman in the mold of Ellis Wyms.
Barring any further developments on Saturday, the Bucs will finish the 2006 season with 10 players on injured reserve, including three members of their most recent draft class. Tight end T.J. Williams, a sixth-round pick, missed the entire season after suffering a knee injury during a June practice. That IR list also includes six opening-day starters: Rice, guard Dan Buenning, wide receiver Michael Clayton, cornerback Brian Kelly, quarterback Chris Simms and tackle Kenyatta Walker.
After practice on Friday, Gruden discussed the earlier move of Zemaitis to the reserve list. The rookie out of Penn State had been declared inactive for each of the Bucs' first 15 games, and even if the team had wanted to give him some late-season action, the shoulder injury would have prevented it.
"It's been an ongoing injury that he's had," said Gruden. "After further diagnosis, I think all the heads got together and decided the best thing to do was get this thing fixed as soon as we can so he can get back ready to roll in the offseason program."
Of course, Zemaitis could have just as easily been placed on the game-day inactive list one more time, even if he was hurt badly enough for injured reserve. However, the more proactive move opened up a roster spot, which the team used to promote Gates. That promotion could give the Bucs more depth at the running back position on Sunday, given the likely absence of starter Cadillac Williams.
"Given the injuries that we have at this point, we might need Lionel Gates," said Gruden. "You never know if someone's going to show up to the hotel sick [on Saturday night]. Some emergency could happen, so you've got to cover your bases."
The Bucs did have one positive development on their injury report on Friday, as second-year tight end Alex Smith was upgraded from doubtful to questionable. Smith has been dealing with a back injury and did not practice on Wednesday and Thursday. However, he did get involved in Friday's workout to some degree, and the Bucs gave him the more optimistic designation at the end of the day. However, Gruden said that Smith is, "still very questionable."
The Seahawks' Friday injury report included a much more dramatic upgrade. Center Robbie Tobeck, who had been designated as out on Wednesday and Thursday, was suddenly moved to probable on Friday.
Tobeck, who has been recovering from an infected abscess in his hip, has missed Seattle's last seven games and was obviously expected to make it eight on Sunday. However, he was cleared to play on Friday morning by team doctors. In response to the move, the NFL asserted that, while a midweek upgrade from "out" to "probable" is not common, it has happened before.
The Seahawks did have to downgrade one other offensive lineman, however. Chris Gray, who has started every game for Seattle at right guard this season, was moved from probable to questionable on Friday due to his thigh injury. Gray, Tobeck, wide receiver Darrell Jackson and cornerback Marcus Trufant all missed practice on Friday. Jackson (toe) and Trufant (ankle) are considered doubtful to play on Sunday.