Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Safety Pen

Victims of their own aggressive play, the Buccaneers’ safeties might be bottled up for the next few days

shevin1.jpg

S Shevin Smith played extensively in Miami

Memo to the Bucs' quarterbacks in practice on Saturday: Throw deep over the middle. There might be nobody there.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. The Buccaneers' defense will have a free safety and strong safety in on every play during team drills, but there won't be a lot of rotation. Sometimes it seems like one particular unit gets hard with injuries all at one time; this time it's the Bucs' safeties.

But fret not. It's not as bad as it seems, though camp star Dexter Jackson might disagree. Jackson, John Lynch, Damien Robinson and David Gibson are all injured to varying degrees, Jackson the worst by far.

"Dexter has a bad injury," said Head Coach Tony Dungy in a health wrap up on Friday. "Actually, we had to cast it up today. It's an ankle sprain, severe. He's probably three to four weeks, maybe even longer, so there's a good chance he won't be there opening day.

Jackson, who has been one of the team's most pleasant surprises of Training Camp 2000, got the injury when he worked his way into the pile on a failed sweep attempt by the Dolphins on the first play from scrimmage Thursday.

"It was a severe one," said Dungy. "Derrick Brooks actually fell on him from the outside in, and those are the toughest ones."

Likewise, Lynch had to sit out most of the game in Miami because he put his torso in the way of a Dolphin helmet. A solid shot to the ribs left Lynch with a ribcage strain early in the first quarter; he actually tried to play through it in the opening period, but came out near the end of the quarter when he realized he couldn't make tackles.

Later, Lynch's replacement, Gibson, took a hard hit to the leg when he scooped up a fumbled football and tried to race up the left sideline. He was upended by a Dolphin helmet and ended up with a bruised thigh.

With the Bucs' injuries coming fast and furious in a generally unpleasant game in South Florida, there was concern over the Bucs' health in departure. Dungy ran down the list on Friday and, with the exception of Jackson, felt fairly positive about the day-after report.

"We had a few (injuries)," said Dungy. "David Gibson has a thigh bruise that he's going to miss two or three days with. George Hegamin has a right knee sprain and he's going to be day-to-day for a couple of days. Brad Culpepper had a little sprained ankle, but it's not major. James Cannida had a left shoulder strain and that's not major. He should be ready to go on Monday. Aaron Stecker had a little hamstring strain."

Dungy had discussed Jackson and Lynch earlier in his Friday meeting with the media. He also touched on Robinson, who hasn't played since the first day of training camp (July 24) due to a significant hamstring strain. With Robinson's lengthy absence and the slew of defensive backfield injuries on Thursday, Dungy was asked if the team would be looking to add a new safety.

"We'll see how it goes,'" said Dungy. "We have a couple of off-days, and John should be back by the start of the week. Hopefully, David Gibson will be back by Wednesday. We really don't have a spot right now without cutting someone, so hopefully, these guys will get healthy."

The return of Robinson would be welcome news, made even more important by the injury to Jackson, who had been filling in so admirably for the starter. "Damien is getting close," said Dungy. "I'd like to think he's going to go on Monday, but maybe by Wednesday for sure. We've got a day off on Tuesday, so if he's not exactly 100% Monday, we'll probably hold him until Wednesday, but he's getting close."

Please hurry, Damien. Otherwise, that post route is going to become very popular in practice.

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