Neither Bert Emanuel or Karl Williams will play on Sunday
Karl Williams, the fourth-year Buccaneer receiver, needs just one more punt return to qualify for the NFL's career lead and take over the all-time spot. Right now, Williams would settle simply for a return to the field.
Considered a clutch receiver on third down and perhaps the team's best blocking wideout, Williams will miss his second consecutive game due to a sprained foot suffered against Chicago on November 24. Williams sustained the injury fighting successfully for a first down on a third-and-nine catch and has not played since. He is expected to miss at least one or two more weeks after this one.
Complicating matters for the Bucs' offense is a similarly troublesome injury to starter Bert Emanuel, who is struggling to overcome a strained hamstring. Emanuel was considered questionable on the injury report all last week but was not able to take the field in Detroit. This week, Emanuel, like Williams, is listed as out.
Though the Buccaneers have not been particularly more injury-struck than the average NFL team at midseason, the ailments do seemed to be concentrated on the passing game (QB Eric Zeier is also considered questionable with a rib contusion). The team's pre-season decision to keep six receivers on the 53-man roster is now seeming particularly prescient. As they did last week, rookie seventh-rounder Darnell McDonald and first-year World League product Yo Murphy will see extensive action in New Orleans.
Against the Lions last Sunday, Murphy recorded the first four receptions of his NFL career (for 28 yards), ranking third on the team. McDonald, who had four receptions for 23 yards entering the game, caught one pass for 11 yards. Murphy has also taken over the team's kickoff return duties, running two kicks back against the Lions for a total of 36 yards. He is averaging a team-best 23.0 yards on five returns.