T Anthony Davis sprained an ankle near the end of Wednesday's practice and is now questionable to play on Sunday
The three defensive starters who missed Monday night's game in Carolina remain questionable for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' next contest on Sunday, and now they've been joined in the training room by a key starter on offense.
Anthony Davis, who has started the Bucs' last 26 games at left tackle (including the postseason) sprained an ankle near the end of Wednesday's two-hour afternoon practice and has been added to the injury report as questionable. He joins six other Bucs under that designation: cornerback Juran Bolden (hip), tackle Donald Penn (foot), running back Michael Pittman (shoulder), linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee/ankle), defensive end Simeon Rice (shoulder) and defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (ankle).
While Davis is new to the Bucs' list of concerns, Bolden, Pittman, Quarles, Rice and Wyms all have injuries of the "nagging" variety. That is, they have been dealing with their various ailments for a number of weeks – all season in the cases of Quarles and Rice – and a number of those issues came to a head last week. Tampa Bay faced Carolina on Monday night without Quarles, Rice and Wyms, all defensive starters.
None of those three practiced even once last week, so it was not surprising that they were deactivated for the week. Quarles did return to work on Wednesday but Rice and Wyms were still out, and it's likely they'll have to get back on the practice field before they are cleared to return to the game-day lineup.
"They didn't work today," said Gruden. "So all I can say is we'll hope to see them tomorrow but it's hard to play these guys until they can come out and physically practice. We're concerned about them but in the meantime we continue to do the best we can."
The Bucs actually fared well on defense against the Panthers without those three important veterans, thanks to the fine work of such younger players as middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, defensive tackles Jovan Haye and Jon Bradley and defensive end Dewayne White.
"I thought they did pretty well, honestly," said Gruden of the reserves who were pressed into starting roles. "I thought Barrett played pretty good football for us. He made some sideline-to-sideline plays, played physical inside. I thought he made some good calls and really communicated our defense well. I was impressed with him.
"Ellis Wyms' absence hurts us but I thought that Jovan Haye did some good things for us; he really did. I'd like to change his number . I don't like that number on him, running around, poor guy, but he did do some good things. And I think Dewayne White played good football for us. We'd like to get to the opposing passer but I thought he made some good plays, some pursuit plays, lateral plays, and in the short area showed good pop, got off blocks and made some physical plays, which we need."
Obviously, though, the Bucs would like to have their veteran defenders available for this Sunday and the rest of the season. A healthy Rice, in particular, would be a boost to a pass rush that has applied little pressure this season.
"I think he's showing some signs of recovery but he's got a legitimate injury and we're going to hope that he can play," said Gruden of Rice. "We're anxious to get him back out there. I think he would have played last week; it was our decision not to play him. We've got three games here in 11 days and we're hoping he can play here in these next two. But we're going to list him as questionable. I don't want to see him out there and hurt himself. He is champing at the bit to play and I think he was miserable without playing."
As for Davis, he has gritted through injuries to play on occasion during his season-and-a-half as the Bucs' starting left tackle, so the team is confident in his toughness. If he can't play, however, the Bucs would turn to reserve Cornell Green. Green, who returned to the Buccaneers on August 30 after two seasons in Denver, has eight career starts, all with Tampa Bay in 2002-03.
Of course, the Redskins are not without their own significant injury concerns. Most notably, they were forced to place starting running back Clinton Portis on injured reserve after he suffered a broken finger in Sunday's loss to Philadelphia.
On their first injury report of the week, the Redskins also listed wide receiver Santana Moss (hamstring) and tight end Christian Fauria (ankle) as questionable. Tackle Jon Jansen (calf) and cornerback Shawn Springs (hamstring) are considered probable, but all four players were held out of practice on Wednesday.
The Bucs made one small roster move on Wednesday before practice, re-signing first-year wide receiver Chad Lucas to the practice squad. This marks the second time this season Lucas has joined that eight-man crew.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Alabama State, the 6-1, 201-pound receiver entered the league with Tennessee in 2004, though he left the Titans before training camp and instead played with the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena League. In 2005, Lucas went to camp with Green Bay and spent most of that fall on the Packers' practice squad, making a one-game appearance on the active roster.
After the season, Green Bay sent him to the NFL Europe League, where he led all players with eight touchdown receptions. In all Lucas caught 27 passes for 440 yards for the Amsterdam Admirals before returning for another training camp with the Packers. He was released prior to the regular season and later signed by the Bucs on October 18. Lucas' first stint on the Bucs' practice squad lasted just a week.
The Buccaneers had an open spot for Lucas after promoting defensive end Charles Bennett from the practice squad on Monday.
When Juran Bolden calls Washington's Antwaan Randle El that "little gadget guy," he means it as a complement.
At 5-10 and 192 pounds, Randle El is maybe a tad small for an NFL wide receiver, though he's an inch taller than Steve Smith and the same height as his own big-play teammate, Moss. As a quarterback, on the other hand, Randle El would be considered quite small.
But Randle El was a quarterback at Indiana, and his size never held him back. And though he switched positions to sustain a professional career, Randle El still finds himself on the outbound end of a pass every now and then. He may not be big, but Randle El has a huge amount of talent.
"That guy, he does everything," said Bolden. "Look at the Super Bowl. He threw a touchdown, got a reverse. He's a special guy. I remember seeing him when he was at Indiana playing, and he was special back then."
Randle El can hurt an opposing team at least four ways: receiving, running, returning punts and, most frighteningly, passing. In his four years with Pittsburgh before he signed a big contract as a free agent with the Redskins, Randle El threw 16 passes on gadget plays and completed 14 of them for 128 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It's admittedly a small sample size, but run those numbers through the NFL's passer rating system and you get a mark of 139.6. Bolden's reference was to a similar play in last year's Steeler win in Super Bowl XL, as Randle El threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to game MVP Hines Ward in the fourth quarter for the game-clinching score.
The Redskins haven't utilized their new receiver in that capacity very often yet; he has just one incomplete pass this season. They have handed off to him 13 times for 81 yards, however, and let him return 22 punts for 272 yards and a touchdown. It is likely only a matter of time before Randle El pulls up and heaves one downfield again; that has proven too good of a tactic for the Redskins to ignore completely. Even though opposing defenses are now on the lookout for such a play, it's still a legitimate threat due to the overall talent on the Redskins receiving corps.
"It's hard to try to contain [Randle El] when you've got to worry about Santana Moss and not only him, but [Brandon Lloyd]," said Bolden. "They've got a good bunch of young receivers over there that are very talented. You try to just keep you eye on every last one of them at the same time to make sure they don't have a bigger game than the other one or just try to keep them in a little, small package."
Careful, big things can come in small packages.