CB Brian Kelly played in the New Orleans game on October 8 but was deactivated for last Sunday's Cincinnati contest
Brian Kelly's on-again, off-again season could be on hold for at least another week.
Kelly, the Bucs' starting left cornerback for most of the last six seasons, was forced to sit out Sunday's game against Cincinnati due to the turf toe injury that has plagued him all year. He has now missed three of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first five games, and it appears as if he'll miss a fourth game this coming weekend.
Though official injury reports won't be posted until Wednesday and Kelly's status could change in the interim, Head Coach Jon Gruden was not optimistic on the subject during his Monday morning press conference.
"He's not making much progress, so his status obviously would be doubtful again for this game," said Gruden of Kelly's chances to play against Philadelphia on October 22. "It's unfortunate. It's just not getting better and he's unable to go right now. Until he can go, we'll continue to play the guys who are well enough."
Turf-toe injuries can be confounding and often aren't resolved without extended rest. Gruden also indicated that surgery could be an option for Kelly. However, Gruden currently considers Kelly's situation to be "day-to-day."
Kelly has 75 starts in his nine Buccaneer seasons, including all 32 over the 2004-05 seasons, and two this year. However, he also missed all but five games in 2003 due to another early-season ailment that he initially tried to cope with. In that season, Kelly suffered a pectoral injury in his chest in the fourth game of the season, sat out the fifth game and then tried to return in the sixth contest, at San Francisco. He ended up aggravating the injury while trying to make a tackle in that game and was subsequently placed on injured reserve.
In the three games that Kelly has missed this season, he has been replace din the starting lineup by Juran Bolden, which in turn has made fourth-year man Torrie Cox the nickel back, a position he has played before. The Bucs also have rookie Alan Zemaitis and recent waiver-wire acquisition Derrick Strait at the cornerback position, though both were inactive for Sunday's game against Cincinnati.
On a more welcome note, Gruden reported no new injuries from Sunday's victory over the Bengals.
McCown's Next Step: Practice?
Having just completed the sixth week of the season, the Buccaneers are now free to activate third-year quarterback Luke McCown from the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, if they so desire.
There is no immediate hurry, however. The Bucs have 21 days to observe McCown on the practice field before deciding whether or not to clear a spot for him on the 53-man active roster, beginning this week.
"There is a three-week window where you can put him on the practice field and basically judge his progress to see how close [he is], or if he is ready to play," said Gruden. "If we put him on the 53-man roster we'll have to make a move to create room. But we will probably put him out there on Wednesday and start that 21-day window of observation to see where he is before we make a decision."
During the offseason, McCown appeared to be the front-runner for the primary backup job behind starter Chris Simms. However, McCown suffered a knee injury on a non-contact snap on the practice field in mid-June, had surgery to repair the damage and was unable to participate in training camp. He has not been eligible to practice with the team but has been working out on the field under the trainers' supervision after practice, sometimes throwing as many as 70 passes.
"He looks good out here on the field," said Gruden. "You know, going through all the bags, going through all the drills, and throwing the football. But putting him underneath the center and having him react in a football uniform will be something we have to look at."
The Bucs acquired McCown in a 2005 draft-day trade with Cleveland. He was on Tampa Bay's roster throughout the '05 season but did not appear in a game. As a rookie in 2004, McCown started four games for the Browns. His return could help the Buccaneers, who have essentially gone with just two quarterbacks since Chris Simms' spleen injury on September 24. Rookie Bruce Gradkowski is starting, with veteran Tim Rattay, another 2005 trade acquisition, serving as the only backup.
"The bottom line is that the doctor is, are you are going to be cleared physically to play?" said Gruden. "And if you are, then we'll consider activating him. We've got to make sure we do the right things and observe him in a football uniform on the practice field before we can make a final determination."
Bucs Keeping Open Mind at Trade Deadline
Rattay, in fact, was acquired from San Francisco just before the trade deadline last season. That same deadline has now arrived for the 2006 season. Teams interested in swapping players must finalize their deals before 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.
Will the Bucs be one of those trading teams again this year? Gruden didn't rule out the possibility, even offering that the team had targeted a few players of interest.
"We're always going to be in a position to make deals, I hope, if we feel like a deal can help our team," said Gruden. "And we are looking into some specific players in the league – not everybody, but we are targeting specific players and the opportunity, of acquiring them. I am not going to speculate on defensive players, offensive players, or future draft picks. There are specific guys that we would like to have – that's all I'll say."