Jamon Meredith has worked his way through a practice-field ankle injury and will be able to start at right guard on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Greg Schiano thought Meredith might be a long shot to suit up in Week 11 after a teammate rolled up on the back of his leg on Wednesday afternoon. As pleased as Schiano is to have his current OL lineup intact, he knows that the Bucs might still have to dip into their depth once again before the day is over.
"Any time you do tweak something, it's going to be play to play," said Schiano. "That's why we have some other guys ready. Some other guys got some work this week, and as we've done, whoever's in there is the starter. That's the way it works. If you're playing, you're the starter. Go get it."
Specifically, Roger Allen or Cody Wallace could be called on to fill in if Meredith suffers a setback. Both are active, which indicates that the team is being cautious; generally the Bucs only keep one reserve interior lineman among their game-day 46. The Buccaneers have already weathered season-ending injuries to Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, and would simply go back to their "next-man-up" philosophy if Meredith encounters any troubles.
That philosophy will also be tested on defense, where sixth-year man Adam Hayward will step in as the new starter at strongside linebacker after Quincy Black's move to injured reserve.
"It's another starter that we've lost," said Schiano. "I think our guys have a great attitude of, 'I'm next, I'll do it, let's go,' and that guy is Adam Hayward this week. He's going to jump in and fill in for Quincy's base personnel linebacker duties. The real shame of it is, Quincy was really playing good football, probably the best that he's played in awhile. It's just sad, but he's going to get better and we've got to go to work now, and I know Adam's going to do a good job."
The Buccaneers are loathe to let injury issues slow their current momentum, as they have won three in a row, four of their last five and their last two on the road. Tampa Bay also defeated Carolina in a home game in Week One and would take an enormous step forward in the playoff race if it can get a season sweep of their division rivals. However, Schiano has made sure to emphasize to his players that neither their earlier victory nor the Panthers' losing record should have them expecting an easy game on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
"Certainly when you win games you build some confidence, and I think our guys practiced incredibly hard this week," said Schiano. "They feel good about what they're doing, so I think that's the important part. Now, we have quite a challenge today. The one thing that I think fans and even some media people fall into is, 'Oh, they're 2-7.' This is the National Football League, and every team can beat – and every team can embarrass – every other team if you are not wholly on your game. I don't think our guys have any issue with any of that stuff. I think they know that this is going to be quite a football game. These are rivals in our division and we need to go out and play with the same consistency, and better consistency, than we have, and that will give us a chance to win.
The Buccaneers' seven inactives are RB Michael Smith, CB Danny Gorrer, S Keith Tandy, LB Najee Goode, WR Chris Owusu, DT Corvey Irvin and DT Matthew Masifilo. WR Arrelious Benn returns to action after missing a game due to a shoulder injury, as does S Cody Grimm, who was out a week with a hamstring strain.
The Panthers announced no lineup changes. Their seven inactives are: QB Jimmy Clausen, WR David Gettis, S D.J. Campbell, LB Jason Williams, OL Jeremy Bridges, T Bruce Campbell and DE Antwan Applewhite. Applewhite is out due to injury.
The Bucs and Chargers will kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on FOX and broadcast on radio through the Buccaneers Radio Network and its flagship station, US 103.5 FM. That radio broadcast will also be carried live on Buccaneers.com. Buccaneers.com will post a running blog of all the action on Sunday, and will also provide coverage of the team's postgame press conferences.