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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Russell Gage Sustains 'Pretty Serious' Knee Injury in Bucs-Jets Practice

WR Russell Gage suffered a potentially significant injury to his right knee early in Wednesday's joint practice, continuing a string of poor luck over the past two seasons and forcing the Bucs to dig into their young depth at the position

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got in approximately two hours of valuable work in conjunction with the New York Jets on Wednesday morning, but also suffered a potentially unfortunate loss. Early in the two teams' joint practice at Jets headquarters, wide receiver Russell Gage went down with an injury to his right knee that is believed to be significant.

"We hear it's going to be pretty serious," said Head Coach Todd Bowles immediately after practice. "I'll wait to hear the final results, but he's been battling back for the last…obviously since he's been here, it seems like. We wish him the best. I could tell by the way he was sitting on the truck that it's probably something that happened pretty bad. Our hearts go out to him and we'll see how it goes."

Gage suffered the injury running a short route to the sideline during a seven-on-seven passing drill, which was the first one that featured the Bucs' offense going against the Jets' defense. He was visibly upset and teammates gathered around him to offer support as he was taken off the field on a cart.

If Gage lands on injured reserve prior to the reduction of the roster to 53 players on August 29, he will miss his entire second season in Tampa, continuing a string of injury misfortune since he signed with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent in March of 2022. After missing only four games in four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Gage sat out four for the Bucs' last season and was slow to get fully involved in the offense due to leg ailments. He then suffered a concussion on a hard hit in the playoff loss to Dallas and missed all of the team's offseason work in 2023 with a hamstring injury.

"My heart goes out to Russ," said fellow wide receiver Chris Godwin. "That's my dog. He's been battling some things since he's been here, so to see him go down again is very, very tough. We're praying for him. I'm going to check on him when we get here. I don't know how serious it is but hopefully it's not too bad. Just hate to see that with anybody, especially someone that you're close to."

Gage also missed most of the Bucs' first week of training camp but after returning fully to practice he was taking a majority of first-team reps as the third receiver in a package with Godwin and Mike Evans. The Bucs were anticipating a full season of the Gage who caught 19 passes for 172 yards and three touchdowns over the last four games of the 2022 regular season.

"It was so unfortunate," said Evans. "He was just getting back into game-ready shape. He was looking good. He made a nice catch and it looked like his knee buckled a little bit. We don't really know the severity of the injury but we were praying for him the rest of practice. I just pray that it's not as bad as it looked."

The Buccaneers have nine other wideouts on their preseason roster in addition to Gage, Evans and Godwin. The majority of those nine are either rookies or second-year players with very little NFL experience. If Gage is forced to miss the season, the Bucs will need to dig deeper into that group of young pass-catchers to flesh out the position.

"I think it's still developing," said Bowles of the Bucs' receiver depth. "Obviously David Moore is pretty much the only one with experience. [Deven] Thompkins is in his second year, but we've got some rookies that we really like that will have to step up in a hurry, and we'll see what the next few weeks look like."

Thompkins has had a strong training camp and there have been periodic practice-field flashes from the likes of rookies Trey Palmer, Rakim Jarrett, Kade Warner, Ryan Miller and Taye Barber along with returning first-year player Kaylon Geiger. As noted, Moore, a post-draft addition to the roster, has experience, playing in 50 NFL games with 14 starts and turning in a 35-catch season for the Seattle Seahawks in 2020. The Buccaneers also added another undrafted rookie wideout last week in Cephus Johnson, who primarily played quarterback in college.

"There's opportunities now for other guys to kind of step in," said Godwin. "We've got a great group of young guys that have been working their asses off all camp. Now it's time to see who's going to step up and be able to fill a big void there. I think there are a lot of guys that have the opportunity to and have the ability to, so we'll just see how it plays out."

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