Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Odom's Last Option

T Jason Odom will have to resort to surgery to heal an ailing back

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T Jerry Wunsch will remain at right tackle with Jason Odom slated for surgery

Sometimes, you look for something, anything, to break up the routine.

Rarely is that 'something' surgery, but in the case of Tampa Bay Buccaneer tackle Jason Odom, there may not be anything else. Odom has missed the last six Buccaneer games due to a chronically sore back, and the weeks were all starting to look the same.

"Sometimes I would feel a little better on Monday, and think I could get back into practice that week," said Odom on Thursday, "but by Wednesday, I couldn't go. The team has been very patient, letting me try to get better with rest, but it just doesn't seem to be coming around. Today, they told me that surgery was probably the best option."

Buccaneer Head Coach Tony Dungy made the announcement of Odom's surgery following Thursday afternoon's practice. Like his fourth-year right tackle, Dungy had held out hope weekly that Odom would be able to return. Odom never progressed higher than questionable on the team's injury report, and was doubtful heading into this Sunday's contest. "It just never progressed as we thought it would," Dungy told the media on Thursday.

Though Odom missed four games with a knee injury as a rookie in 1996, he had been a pillar on a commendable Buccaneer offensive line in 1997 and 1998, starting all but one game at right tackle in that span. He also started the first three games of 1999 before his back injury flared up.

Dungy indicated on Thursday that no specific timetable had been set for Odom's surgery. It was also not immediately known if Odom would be placed on injured reserve. The Buccaneers currently have just two players on injured reserve, long-snapper Mitch Palmer, who tore a knee ligament, and S Eric Vance, who suffered a severe foot sprain.

With the Buccaneers uncertain of Odom's chances to return, the team signed free agent T George Hegamin on November 10. A large (6-7, 331) and versatile lineman who has started at every O-line spot except center, Hegamin played the 1998 season with Philadelphia after three seasons as a top substitute in Dallas. With Odom slated for surgery, Hegamin is listed as the backup at right tackle to Jerry Wunsch, who has performed well in six starts during Odom's absence.

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