Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Post-Bye Injury List Still Marked by Uncertainty

While the bye week helped several injured Bucs get closer to returning to action, there are still some big-time contributors, including Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski, who remain question marks as the team gets back to work

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers held a bonus practice on Monday coming off of their bye week, but they were not required to submit an injury report afterward. For a number of the team's injured players, there might not have been definitive answers anyway.

After the practice, Head Coach Bruce Arians indicated that a "bunch of guys" who did not participate in the workout would be fine for the remainder of the week, but there are still plenty of developing situations among Buccaneer players who have recently missed game time.

The Bucs obviously hoped that their bye week would give those players more time to rest and recuperate, and hopefully return to the lineup to start the season's second half. That bye certainly started on a positive note, with two of the four Buccaneers on short-term injured reserve – cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (elbow) and wide receiver Scotty Miller (toe) returning to practice.

Those two were able to get some simulated work in with each other last week and then rejoined the rest of the team on Monday. They are a week into a 21-day window during which they can be activated at any time, and obviously the hope is that will be sooner rather than later. Some of that will depend on how their bodies adjust to being back in action on the practice field.

"They looked really good today, so we'll see how it goes," said Arians. "See how sore they get and how it goes."

On the other hand, wide receiver Antonio Brown is still wearing a walking boot to deal with an ankle injury, Arians confirmed Monday, and tight end Rob Gronkowski is apparently not a sure thing to return from the back spasms that flared up during his brief playing time in New Orleans. And while Murphy-Bunting's return would help out an injury-plagued secondary, fellow starting corner Carlton Davis III is not as close to resuming football activities thanks to a calf injury.

"I think you still have to worry a little bit about Gronk and I don't know if AB is going to be back," said Arians. "And Carlton will stay on IR. We'll see if those other two guys are game-ready. It's one thing to practice, it's another thing to throw them out there in a game."

Gronkowski has missed four games and most of the Week Eight contest in New Orleans. Brown has sat out the last two contests. Before their respective injuries, they were among the most productive players in Tampa Bay's passing attack. Gronkowski had four touchdown receptions in the season's first two games and 16 grabs overall before suffering his initial ribs injury in Week Three. Brown's average of 83.6 receiving yards per game is actually highest among all Bucs pass-catchers, by about a yard over Chris Godwin, and he scored four times in five outings. Tampa Bay leads the NFL in points scored per game (32.5) and passing yards per game (327.5) but will undeniably be a more dangerous offense when Brown and Gronkowski are back in the mix.

Cornerback Richard Sherman, an in-season replacement for other injured Buccaneer cornerbacks, sustained his own hamstring injury early in his third game with the team. He was then inactive for the next game against Chicago and active but given no snaps in Week Eight at New Orleans. Arians sounded a particularly optimistic not about Sherman's status this week.

"Yeah, he's in really good shape," said the coach. "Now, he really didn't need to play in that [Saints] game so we were fortunate he didn't have to. He should be up and ready to roll."

Inside linebacker Lavonte David already returned to the lineup before the break, playing every defensive snap in the Bucs' loss to the Saints in the Superdome. He had missed two outings with an ankle injury and while he wasn't quite at full strength in his first game back he says he made additional progress during the bye week.

"It helps a lot," said David of the week of rest. "You just try to stay off of it as much as you can, get the extra work on it and try to get your mobility back as best you can, as much as you can. Rest is a big thing as far as those types of injuries, with those ligaments and those sprains and stuff. The bye week did help out a lot with that. It's moving on the up-and-up right now. I'm where I need to be to go out there and play and help my team."

Other players who were missing practices or games before the bye week include outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/hand), cornerback Dee Delaney (ankle), tight end O.J. Howard (ankle) and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh (knee). While Arians didn't share a specific update on any of those players on Monday, the first injury report on Wednesday should provide a closer look at just how much healthier the Bucs are coming out of their bye week.

And then a long stretch of nine straight games will follow to finish the regular season, and everything will change multiple times over. For now, the Buccaneers' injury list seems to be mostly trending in the right direction.

"You know, injuries and COVID and everything changes every single week," said Arians. "So it's just: 'It looks good this week.' You take them one day at a time and one game at a time from here on out. We're in first place, so let's stay there."

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