Demar Dotson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting right tackle, will miss at least his team's preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday, August 24. Dotson, who suffered a right knee injury in the Buccaneers' preseason opener on Saturday night in Minnesota, could be out for a more extended period time, but as of Sunday the team's medical staff was still evaluating his situation.
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At his day-after-game press conference on Sunday, Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith emphasized that the injury was a sprain, which would seem to separate it from a season-ending ACL tear.
"Demar Dotson did go down with a knee injury," said Smith. "It's a knee sprain, right now that's what we're saying it is. He will be out for a period of time. Again, we're in the evaluation process still with him.
"'Knee sprain'…that tells you we're not that far. Right now, he won't play this week. Don't know exactly how long he'll be out, but we're not to that point right there, no."
Dotson, who has started 47 consecutive games at right tackle for the Buccaneers, was injured near the end of the first half of Saturday's game against the Vikings. While starters often exit preseason games after a quarter or less of play, the Buccaneers wanted to extend rookie quarterback Jameis Winston's playing time to halftime. That meant more time on the field for several of his front-line protectors.
"We wanted to do what we could to protect our quarterback," said Smith. "The plan was to keep an offensive line in there that we felt comfortable with protecting Jameis. The plan last night, as I said all along, was for [Winston] to play a half. So with him in there, our best guys that we felt could protect him would be in there."
The Buccaneers started Dotson on the right end of their O-Line Saturday and second-year tackle Kevin Pamphile on the opposite side. Pamphile and rookie Donovan Smith are competing for the starting job on Winston's blind side. During Dotson's absence, it's possible the team will look at Pamphile as an option on the right side, as they did for a period on Saturday night. They might also look into the viability of third-year player Patrick Omameh, who started at right guard last year but has been working at tackle in 2015. Reid Fragel and Edawn Coughman fill out the depth chart at the position.
"You look at our roster, guys that have played, Kevin Pamphile, of course," said Smith. "Patrick has played a little bit there. Just look at the tackles on our roster right now; when you have an injury, it's time for the guys to step up. That's what we'll do, just see what the best combination is right away."
The Buccaneers hope that whatever solution they find for the right tackle position will be temporary. As of now, the timetable for Dotson's return is indefinite, but it at least seems possible that the injury isn't as severe as it was feared on Saturday night.
"Just give us a little bit of time and we'll let you know [that] hopefully it's not as bad as what some people are trying to portray it," said Smith.