WR Joey Galloway will miss four to six weeks after suffering a groin injury in the season opener
For Joey Galloway, it's déjà vu of the worst kind.
On Sunday afternoon, in his first regular season game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Galloway sustained a 'significant' tear in the left side of his groin in the second quarter and will miss four to six weeks.
Four years ago, in his first regular season game as a Dallas Cowboy, Galloway suffered a knee injury and was lost for the year.
In both cases, the injury dimmed the hopes of his new team to develop a significant new weapon in the offense. The Cowboys had sent two first-round draft picks to Seattle in 2000 to acquire Galloway; four years later, the Bucs traded Keyshawn Johnson to Dallas to get the speed receiver.
"It's very disappointing, obviously, that the injury looks to be a little more serious than we had expected," said Head Coach Jon Gruden.
In the Bucs' case, at least, the team can look forward to getting Galloway back before the season is over. He will not undergo surgery but will have to rest for several weeks.
"It was a big loss for our team yesterday," said Gruden. "Hopefully, he makes a quick recovery, because we need him. There will be no surgery, from what I understand, but he will be basically off his feet for two weeks, then continue his rehab."
Galloway was to be the deep threat that Tampa Bay's passing attack had lacked for some time. In fact, he was injured on a play in the end zone in which he had beaten his man but couldn't quite haul in a long pass from quarterback Brad Johnson. Galloway had missed some time in the preseason due to a sore groin, as well, but he had recovered from the injury and it was not considered a problem going into the season.
"He was cleared to play; he practiced well," said Gruden. "He just made a slight turn for a ball and aggravated it on the way down. It's just unfortunate. We're going to miss him."
Just a week into the regular season, it has already been a rough year for Buccaneer receivers. Joe Jurevicius was nearing a comeback from his knee injury when a herniated disk in his lower back led to surgery; he's now on the reserve/non-football-injury list. Edell Shepherd was in the midst of a breakout training camp when he broke his foot in the preseason opener; he's on injured reserve, out for the year. Charles Lee missed most of training camp and the preseason with a severe hamstring pull. Keenan McCardell's decision not to report took away another of the team's holdover receivers.
And so Galloway's injury simply forces the team to continue with its seemingly endless adjustments at the position. In this case, the Bucs will be looking to replace the longball threat that Galloway was poised to provide.
"It's difficult because we've been adjusting," said Gruden. "[The injuries] have put us in a period of contingency plans. But to lose Galloway is a big blow to us. It's certainly a big loss to our football team, a guy who we felt could come in and give us some advantages, strategically."
The Bucs will specifically fill Galloway's void by getting Charles Lee back into the mix. Lee played in only one preseason game due to his hamstring injury and was the one receiver out of the six on the team who was inactive for the season opener. He'll be active now and hopefully can reprise his role from last season, when he took over as a starter following the deactivation of Keyshawn Johnson.
In five games in that role, Lee caught 33 passes for 432 yards and two touchdowns. On several occasions, he turned quick underneath passes into long gains.
"Charles Lee, we think, will be well enough to play this week," said Gruden. "Obviously, he becomes a vital part of our offense, which is good. He's a good player; he proved that last year. Bill Schroeder and obviously Frank Murphy are guys who can play on the weak side. We'll adjust with that in mind."
The Bucs are not likely to dip into the pool of available free agents for another receiver, as they had kept a high number to begin with. Also, there is the expected return of Jurevicius on the horizon.
"I can't say this injury is going to be severe enough at this time to put Joey on I.R.," said Gruden. "We've got Joe Jurevicius hopefully coming back around Week Six, so it doesn't appear that we'll add another player at this time, although we'll have a further meeting on it later tonight. But it doesn't look as if that will be the case."
The team had also hoped to use Galloway on punt returns, at least in some selected situations. Now that role will fall on Schroeder and Tim Brown, each of whom took a crack at the role on Sunday. Schroeder returned five punts for 21 yards; Brown called for a fair catch on his one assignment.
As for filling the void left by Galloway in the Bucs' attack, it's simply time for another adjustment.
Smith Hurt, Too
S Dwight Smith is also feeling some pain on Monday, thanks to bruised ribs on his left side. The injury will likely make Smith 'questionable' for next Sunday's home opener against Seattle. The official injury report won't be released until Wednesday, but Smith and the Bucs will be working hard to get him ready for Game Two.
"We're optimistic that he'll play," said Gruden.
If Smith can't go against the Seahawks, the Bucs' safety depth will get an immediate depth. The Bucs kept two backups behind starters Smith and Jermaine Phillips, including one rookie. Fourth-year veteran John Howell is listed as the backup at free safety and 2004 fourth-round pick Will Allen is listed as the second strong safety. However, both players can play in either spot and did so during the preseason.
"We'll work with Will Allen and John Howell," said Gruden, not specifically mentioning either as the likely replacement. "Both those guys are cross-trained to play both free and strong. And we'll hope Dwight makes a quick recovery and is ready to go for Seattle."