The late-season shuffling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster continued on Thursday as the team placed four more players on reserve lists.
Inside linebacker Lavonte David and running back Leonard Fournette were put on injured reserve, meaning they must miss at least three games before being eligible to return to the active roster. There are three games left in the regular season but David and/or Fournette could make it back for the playoffs if the Buccaneers clinch a spot. David is dealing with a foot ailment and Fournette with a hamstring strain, both injuries suffered in last Sunday's loss to the Saints.
The Buccaneers also placed wide receiver Jaelon Darden and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Under the recently-revised NFL COVID protocols, players who test positive and are fully vaccinated can return to the team at any time if they are asymptomatic and generate two negative COVID tests 24 hours apart. Given the timing of the diagnoses for Darden and Nunez-Roches, however, it is not likely they will be cleared to play by Sunday.
The Bucs' series of roster moves in Week 16 come in the aftermath of a Week 15 game in New Orleans in which the team lost a long list of key players to injuries. Wide receiver Chris Godwin and defensive lineman Patrick O'Connor both suffered knee injuries in the game and have been placed on injured reserve; Godwin's injury has already been revealed to be season-ending. In addition, wide receiver Mike Evans is not practicing this week after sustaining a hamstring injury on Sunday, though he has not been placed on injured reserve.
The timing of the moves of David and Fournette to injured reserve could actually be interpreted as a positive development, at least in part. Head Coach Bruce Arians said earlier in the week that it hadn't been determined yet how much time those two would miss, which would impact when and if they went on injured reserve. By making the move now, the Bucs are ensuring that David and Fournette will be eligible for the first round of the playoffs, should they secure a spot. Had the Buccaneers waited a week or more to put those two on I.R. it would have indicated that they were expected to be out longer into the month of January.