The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dealing with a trio of ailments to veteran offensive linemen, the most significant of which is a neck injury that will end A.Q. Shipley's playing career, according to Head Coach Bruce Arians.
Testing on Shipley's neck following Monday night's game revealed a more serious injury than was initially believed.
"He had what we thought was a stinger," said Arians on Friday. "He had this injury back in 2013, I believe. Once we did the MRI and x-rays, it was determined he really shouldn't play anymore.
"He'll be going on IR and starting his coaching career."
Though he hasn't yet been placed on injured reserve, obviously won't play against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday afternoon. The Buccaneers will have to wait a little longer to know if starting left tackle Donovan Smith and starting left guard Ali Marpet will also be sidelined.
Smith suffered an ankle injury against the Rams on Monday night and missed five plays plus the entire week of practice leading up to the Chiefs game. Arians said that Smith would be a game-time decision and would test out his ankle in pregame warmups, much as he did against Detroit in Week 14 last season. Smith did not end up playing in that game and it still marks the only start he has missed in his six-year NFL career.
Marpet has missed the last three games due to a concussion but he did participate fully in practice this week. Like Smith, he was listed as questionable on Friday's injury report as the Bucs wait to see if he will fully exit the NFL's concussion protocol or miss a fourth straight game. In Tampa Bay's last two games, Shipley started at center with Ryan Jensen sliding over to left guard to replace Marpet, a lineup that produced good results. The Bucs ran for 210 yards in a win over Carolina and in those two games combined Brady was only sacked two times.
That, of course, will not be an option against the Chiefs with Shipley out, so Aaron Stinnie would likely draw his first career NFL start if Marpet cannot play. What will be on option for Shipley moving forward is to transition into coaching, and he won't even have to leave the Buccaneers' facility. Arians plans to introduce him to the coaching life with the Buccaneers.
"Yes, for sure," said Arians. "He aspires to be a coach and I think he's going to be a great one, so we'll get him started to make sure he likes this life."
While Arians has high expectations for Shipley as a coach, it is still a difficult thing to see a man's playing career end so abruptly. Assuming he has played his last game, Shipley finishes with 110 games played and 72 career starts for Arizona, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Tampa Bay. As Arians noted, he also finishes his career with "all his mobility" and the opportunity to live a healthy life with his family.
That didn't make the conversation with Shipley about his injury any easier.
"It's really hard," said Arians. "It's harder than releasing somebody or cutting somebody that's a veteran that has finally hit the wall and doesn't want to really admit it. To have an injury stop it so suddenly – it's really hard on him and it's hard on me."