Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Updates: December 2022

Keep informed with our daily updates: News, notes and more throughout the month of December

December 30 Updates

The Buccaneers had 15 players on their injury report by the end of Week 17 but won't necessarily be shorthanded on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

On Friday, Head Coach Todd Bowles said there were no players on that injury report that he could definitively rule out for the game, in which the Buccaneers could clinch a second consecutive NFC South title. He did mention cornerback Carlton Davis (shoulder) and outside linebacker Carl Nassib (pectoral) as two players who would be game day decisions.

"There's still a couple people will see on Sunday, but for the most part everybody's trending in the right direction," said Bowles.

Three of the 15 players on the report were listed simply because they were given a rest day at some point during the week. Defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches doesn't have an injury but missed two practices for family reasons. When asked about the status of defensive lineman Vita Vea and tackle Donovan Smith, Bowles indicated that they, too, would be tested on Sunday to see if they could go.

December 28 Updates

Center Ryan Jensen is the fifth player the Buccaneers have designated for return from injured reserve this season, and the other four were all activated in the same week they got that designation. That will not be the case for Jensen. On Wednesday, Head Coach Todd Bowles delivered a direct no to the question of the possibility of Jensen playing this Sunday against Carolina.

There are only two games left in the regulation, but the Buccaneers could extend their playing time by winning the NFC South at some point over the next two weeks. That would give Jensen more time to get back to playing shape, but the Bucs don't have a specific target date for a potential return.

"We don't have any expectations on him," said Bowles. "It's part of his rehab process. But having him out there and seeing him out there is a big lift for the guys. He was the anchor and he was the attitude guy when he was here, so just having him out there is a big lift.

"The goal for him is to get healthy. This is all part of his rehab right now. We're not even thinking about him getting in pads at this point. He's day-to-day; as it progresses we'll have more to report but right now he's just happy to be out there running, doing something, and that's good for him. It's a good lift for him, it's a good lift for the guys."

Both of the Bucs' starting tackles were on the practice field on Wednesday, too, at least during the portion open to the media. Donovan Smith (foot) and Tristan Wirfs (ankle) are working through injuries and their status for Sunday remains uncertain.

"It's early," said Bowles. We'll see how it goes. It was kind of light today, so we'll see once we get into tomorrow and Friday and see exactly where they are."

December 26 Updates

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven't had their usual pair of starting offensive tackles on the field together for a month, and they have more questions at the position heading into Week 17.

Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs missed three games after sustaining an ankle sprain in Cleveland in Week 12, but the Bucs were thrilled to get him back by Week 16, given the apparent severity of the injury at the time. Unfortunately, in the same weekend that Wirfs returned to the lineup, left tackle Donovan Smith was held out of action by a foot injury. To make matters worse, Wirfs didn't make it through his first game back unscathed.

As the Bucs begin preparing for a critical division showdown with the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sunday, they don't yet know if either Smith or Wirfs will be able to play.

"Hopefully Donovan returns," said Head Coach Todd Bowles on Monday. "Tristan reaggravated [his injury] towards the end of the game – I think somebody fell on the back of it. Again, we'll get the reports later when he comes in and see how it is, but anytime you lose one, and then you have one out, and then you may lose another one, it's concerning."

Eighth-year veteran Josh Wells has helped the Buccaneers weather the O-Line injury storm, first at right tackle and then on the left side, but he suffered a knee injury on Sunday in Arizona that required a cart ride off the field and reportedly will end his season. First-year man Brandon Walton stepped in at left tackle after Wells's injury.

"He battled," said Bowles of Walton, who also started at left tackle against Green Bay in Week Three. "You know, fundamentally, he wasn't sound all the time. He battled – you go up against J.J. Watt, you're going to lose some battles, but he hung in there enough to give us some plays and he fought. I credit the guy for fighting."

CLICK HERE for video of Coach Bowles entire day-after-game press conference.

December 23 Updates

The Buccaneers could be getting Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs back from an ankle injury this week, but their front line will still be down a key starter. On Friday, Head Coach Todd Bowles listed five players who have already been ruled out for Sunday's game in Arizona, and that list includes starting left tackle Donovan Smith.

If Wirfs is able to reassume his duties on the other end of the line, the Buccaneers could move Josh Wells, who has started the last three games at right tackle to the other end of the line to replace Smith.

"Yeah, we've been working him over there," said Bowles. "We've been working [Brandon] Walton over there as well just to be prepared.

"[Wells] has definitely shown his value right there, and that's what the swing tackle does. You don't want to see that much of it, but he's stepped in and done a great job for us."

The other four players who will definitely not suit up on Sunday are outside linebackers Genard Avery and Carl Nassib, cornerback Jamel Dean and defensive lineman Vita Vea. The Buccaneers will wait until Sunday to make a final ruling on Antoine Winfield Jr.

December 22 Updates

The Buccaneers are entering a three-game stretch run that will determine whether they will be playing games deeper into January, but tackle Tristan Wirfs already knows he has one more date in February.

On Wednesday evening, the Buccaneers' standout right tackle learned that he had been selected for his second straight Pro Bowl. He was Tampa Bay's only representative, though the team does have several alternates who could later be added to the roster.

The more pressing issue for the Bucs and Wirfs is whether he will be in the lineup this Sunday night in Arizona. He has missed three games due to an ankle injury suffered in Cleveland in Week 12 but he has returned to practice this week, at least on a limited basis. After Thursday's field session, Wirfs reported that he was definitely making progress.

"It's feeling a lot better," said Wirfs, who noted that he won't be back to 100% until after the season. "It's good. I thought I was moving around good today out there."

As for the Pro Bowl, there won't be an actual game in pads this year, as the NFL has reimagined its all-star week to include more skills competitions, culminating in a flag football game on February 5. It remains an honor to be selected, however, and Wirfs now has two selections to go with first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors in 2021 and, of course, a Super Bowl championship at the end of his rookie campaign.

"I think there was a point last year when I was at my mom's house and I gave her my Pro Bowl jersey," he said. "It was really kind of an exciting moment to see her reaction, and just take a step back and realize all the stuff that's happened these past couple years. It's been awesome. I feel like I've been in a really great situation with teammates who pushed me along the way and have been supportive. It's been a lot of fun."

CLICK HERE for more on Wirfs making his second Pro Bowl roster.

The Buccaneers have two safeties on their injury report this week, neither of whom practiced on Wednesday. Keanu Neal saw some progress on Thursday, taking part in practice in a limited fashion, but Antoine Winfield Jr. remained out.

Neal is dealing with a toe injury while Winfield is managing an ankle sprain that previously kept him out of the Bucs' games in Weeks 13 and 14. Winfield returned to action last Sunday against Cincinnati but left the game early after apparently aggravating that same injury. The Buccaneers have one more practice on Friday morning before leaving for Arizona later that afternoon.

CLICK HERE for a more detailed look at Thursday's injury report.

December 19 Updates

The Buccaneers have played their last three games without Tristan Wirfs, after the All-Pro right tackle sustained an ankle injury in a Week 12 game at Cleveland. However, it's possible he could be back in action soon.

Wirfs got in some limited practice work at the end of last week and was actually listed as "questionable" on the injury report for Sunday's game against Cincinnati. In the previous two weeks, he had been ruled out several days before the game. The Buccaneers are hoping he can do more this week.

"We'll see how he looks this week," said Head Coach Todd Bowles on Monday. "He moved around some last week. We'll try to ramp up his rehab and see where he stands."

Bowles also discussed the status of safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards, neither of whom played the entire game on Sunday after returning from ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively. Winfield started the game but aggravated his injury and ended up with just 18 defensive snaps. Edwards did not start and was eventually used on 32 of the 66 defensive snaps. When healthy, Winfield and Edwards generally play every defensive snap.

"Winfield's day-to-day with his ankle," said Bowles. "He didn't finish the game, obviously. Mike played half the game. As he gets in better shape, hopefully gets healthier this week, he'll play a lot more."

CLICK HERE for more of Coach Bowles thoughts in his day-after-game press conference.

December 16 Updates

The Buccaneers' Week 15 injury report runs 10 men deep, but only four of them are definitely going to be sidelined on Sunday against the Bengals.

After practice on Friday, Head Coach Todd Bowles identified the four players who have already been ruled out: cornerback Jamel Dean (toe), defensive lineman Vita Vea (calf) and outside linebackers Genard Avery (abdomen/oblique) and Carl Nassib (pectoral).

In addition, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will likely be listed as questionable on the final version of that injury report and Shaquil Barrett is already on injured reserve, leaving the Bucs a little short-handed at the outside linebacker position.

"We're extremely thin," said Bowles. "We worked a couple people there this week. We've got a couple of guys that have some experience out there that could play out there."

The Buccaneers have two outside linebackers on the practice squad, which means a game day elevation is possible to provide some emergency depth. One, Rashed Hamilcar, was just signed this week but Charles Snowden has been on that crew since Week 10. He also played two regular-season games for the Bears last season.

"He's got length, he's got athleticism," said Bowles. "[He is] still young in the system, understanding some things. If he does play we'll have to tweak some things for him so he can play fast."

CLICK HERE to watch Coach Bowles' post-practice press briefing.

December 14 Updates

The Buccaneers have a Pro Bowl performer on both sides of the trenches, but neither one is likely to be in action on Sunday when the team takes on the Cincinnati Bengals.

Head Coach Todd Bowles was not optimistic about the availability on Sunday of Wirfs, the Bucs' All-Pro right tackle, who escaped a season-ending calamity when he went down awkwardly in a pile against the Cleveland Browns in Week 12 but is still dealing with knee and ankle injuries.

"No, I don't think so," said Bowles when asked if Wirfs was in play for the Bengals game. "He's working to get better but I don't think it's this week."

Vea suffered a calf injury just four snaps into the Bucs' game at San Francisco last weekend and also isn't expected to recover in time for Sunday's contest.

"I doubt it," said Bowles. "We'll see how he progresses during the week. If he's not out there by Friday, I'd say no."

December 12 Updates

Wide receiver Deven Thompkins, an undrafted rookie out of Utah State who has spent the entire season on the Buccaneers' practice squad, made his NFL regular-season debut on Saturday in San Francisco. It went well.

The game as a whole did not go well for the Buccaneers, who absorbed a 35-7 loss, but Thompkins made the most of an opportunity to seize the suddenly-available punt and kickoff return jobs. The Buccaneers had released second-year return man Jaelon Darden earlier in the week. When asked to point out anything positive that he gleaned from reviewing the game tape, Head Coach Todd Bowles mentioned the rookie wideout.

"Deven Thompkins was positive in the return game," said Bowles. "I thought he did some good things coming out."

Thompkins returned two punts for 21 yards and five kickoffs for 123 yards. He opened the second half with a 54-yard kickoff return that was the longest by a Buccaneer in over 10 years.

Thompkins played in Sunday's game after being elevated from the practice squad for the weekend. He previously was elevated in Week Five but was then named an inactive for the team's game against Atlanta. That means Thompkins has just one practice squad elevation option left for the regular season.

CLICK HERE to watch Coach Bowles' day-after-game press conference.

December 9 Updates

The Buccaneers played their Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints without the services of cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) and safeties Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), and with a short week following their Monday night victory they may be in the same situation on Sunday in San Francisco. However, none of the three have yet been ruled out for that game, according to Head Coach Todd Bowles, who was asked after Friday if any of his players were definitely sidelined for the weekend.

"Other than Tristan [Wirfs], not really," said Bowles. "The three DBs are getting better, so we'll see how they feel Sunday morning. Yes. They have a chance."

Murphy-Bunting was the only one of the three who practiced on Wednesday and Thursday, and he was limited. Bowles also noted that running back Leonard Fournette, who was added to the injury report on Thursday, has a sore foot but would hopefully be ready to go by Sunday.

CLICK HERE for Coach Bowles' post-practice meeting with the press on Friday.

December 8 Updates

Veteran running back Leonard Fournette returned from a one-game absence due to a hip injury to rush for 49 yards and catch six passes for 32 yards in the Buccaneers win over New Orleans on Monday night. He logged 48 offensive snaps in that contest and was no longer on the injury report when the Bucs began their practice week on Wednesday.

However, Fournette is back on that report after he was added on Thursday due to a foot injury. He was a limited participant after practicing fully on Wednesday.

Fournette leads the Buccaneers in rushing yards (511), yards from scrimmage (858) and touchdowns (six). Rookie running back Rachaad White has assumed a larger role on offense over the past three games and would be the primary ballcarrier on Sunday in San Francisco if Fournette can't play.

CLICK HERE to review Thursday's updated injury report.

December 7 Updates

The Buccaneers were without their two starting safeties in Monday night's win over the Saints, and they may have to take on the 49ers on Sunday without them as well. Neither Mike Edwards nor Antoine Winfield Jr. returned to practice today after sitting out all last week with hamstring and ankle ailments, respectively.

"Not at this time," said Bowles. "They didn't practice today. So, again, until I see them running out there I expect to go without them. We'll see how the week goes."

Holding down the back end of the defense against the Saints were the two safeties the Buccaneers added in free agency this past offseason, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan. For Ryan, it was his first game since Week Four as he spent time on injured reserve while recovering from a foot injury.

"He held up fine physically," said Bowles. "Obviously he's still got to get a little wind underneath him. Extremely smart guy, great competitor, understands the game very well. He held up well physically."

Head Coach Todd Bowles said on Wednesday that the coaching staff is evaluating several options to take over on punt and kickoff returns after Tuesday's release of second-year wideout Jaelon Darden. Among the candidates are wide receiver Scotty Miller and running back Giovani Bernard, though Bowles suggested there were others in the mix as well.

"Well, it's tough anytime you release somebody," said Bowles. "He's a talented player. We thought we did what was best for the team at that point and time. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else, but we're auditioning guys now like we have been, whether it's Gio, whether it's Scotty, whether it's somebody else who's been auditioning. We'll make that decision at the end of the week."

Bowles agreed with the notion that Darden's one-dimensional usage as a return man played into Tuesday's decision. Darden had only been on the field for 57offensive snaps through 12 games, including none over the last five outings.

"Yeah, that was part of it," said Bowles. "That was a big part of it. He didn't do nothing wrong physically. It wasn't because he did anything. It's just us moving forward, it was better. He hadn't played offense in a while. We had some returners, some guys that could do a few more things."

December 3 Updates

The Buccaneers' two starting safeties, Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) were held out of all each practice this week, which puts their status for Monday night's game against New Orleans in question. After the final practice on Saturday, Head Coach Todd Bowles said neither defender has been ruled out yet.

"Well, they're not ruled out," said Bowles. "We're going to wait until [Monday], see if they can do something before the game, and we'll make that decision at that time."

Given their lack of practice time, it would be no surprise to see Edwards and Winfield held out against the Saints. As such, it would be particularly good timing if veteran safety Logan Ryan is activated from injured reserve prior to Monday's contest. Ryan was designated for return on Wednesday, opening a 21-day window in which he can be added back to the active roster. Because teams can make roster moves on the afternoon before a Monday night game, the Bucs can wait until then to make a final determination on Ryan's status.

"He had no setbacks, hopefully," said Bowles. "He's been working hard, doing a little more each day. We've just got to see how much he can do. With what he's doing he's doing fine right now, but you've got to take it day by day to make sure he doesn't have any soreness each day and make sure he's a hundred percent first."

CLICK HERE to listen to all of Coach Bowles' post-practice thoughts on Saturday.

December 2 Updates

Vita Vea and Akiem Hicks are a tough pair for offensive linemen to handle when facing the Buccaneers' defensive front, but now those are trying to handle a pair of foot injuries.

Vea has seen limited practice time the past two weeks due to his foot injury but was able to play and soak up 48 defensive snaps last Sunday in Cleveland. He did not practice on Thursday as the Bucs prepare for Monday night's showdown with the Saints, but he did get in a limited workout on Friday.

Meanwhile, Hicks was not on the injury report to start the week but was added on Friday due to a foot ailment of his own. He did not take part in Friday's practice. Vea and Hicks still have almost three full days to rest and recover, but if either or both are unable to play on Monday night it will be a serious blow to Tampa Bay's defense.

CLICK HERE for the full updated injury report.

December 1 Updates

Running back Leonard Fournette practiced without limitations on Thursday, creating optimism that he will be able to play against the Saints on Monday night.

Fournette missed the Buccaneers' game in Cleveland due to a hip pointer he had sustained in the second half of a Week 10 win over Seattle in Munich, Germany. The Buccaneers had their bye week between the Seahawks and Browns games, so Fournette has had more than two weeks to recover from his injury. He was limited in practice throughout last week and originally designated as "doubtful" on the injury report before being downgraded to "out" on Saturday.

Even after sitting out last week's game, Fournette leads the Buccaneers in rushing yards (462), yards from scrimmage (777) and touchdowns (six) in 2022. In his absence, rookie running back Rachaad White started against the Browns and contributed 109 yards from scrimmage.

CLICK HERE for a closer look at the entire Thursday injury report for both the Buccaneers and Saints.

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