Rookie G Arron Sears more than held his own against Jacksonville's powerful defensive tackles
Forget the perils of preseason games; it's the practice field the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may need to avoid in the waning days before the start of the regular season.
In a scene uncomfortably reminiscent of last year's practice-field injury to then-rookie guard Davin Joseph, the Buccaneers had to cart rookie guard Arron Sears off the grass Tuesday afternoon. Sears sustained a right ankle sprain during a pass-protection drill, the severity of which had not yet been determined by the end of practice.
Of course, while the Bucs can limit their starters' exposure during preseason games, they can't really skip practice altogether. Besides, Head Coach Jon Gruden wasn't ready to wallow in misery on Tuesday afternoon, reasoning that Sears' injury might not be severe.
"I'm not concerned about anything until I get information," said Gruden. "These situations happen a lot on the practice field. It's disappointing [but] I'm not going to say that he's out. He could be back here this afternoon, you never know."
Sears, a second-round pick out of Tennessee, is making the same sort of instant impact on the Bucs' front line that Joseph made last summer after the Bucs took the Oklahoma blocker in the first round. Both players are big, mobile and powerful, and as a pair they could be the foundation for the Bucs' O-line for years to come.
Also like Joseph, Sears appears to have wrapped up a starting spot as a rookie, taking control of the left guard position with an outstanding training camp. The team hopes the parallels don't extend to Sears' practice-field mishap. Last year, Joseph sustained a knee injury during the Wednesday practice before the regular-season opener and subsequently missed three games and four starts.
"Last year we lost Joseph, [Kenyatta] Walker and [Dan] Buenning – that was hard to swallow," said Gruden. "We've lost quarterbacks, we've lost a lot of players here. We lost Simeon Rice and we lost a number of guys that went down. That's just part of this business. Again, I don't want to speculate and sound too negative, 'woe is us.' There's a good chance [Sears] will be okay."
If Sears is forced to miss any games, including this weekend's preseason contest at Miami, he would likely be replaced at left guard by Anthony Davis. Davis started at left tackle for the Bucs the last two seasons but has worked at both guard and tackle this summer and was Sears' main competition for the starting left guard assignment. Third-year man Dan Buenning, who suffered a knee injury last season but had 23 starts at left guard over the past two years, would also be a consideration.
"We'll make adjustments," said Gruden. "What those are, we're going to make those decisions if and when we have to."
In just four months, Jerry Mackey has been both a free agent signing and a trade acquisition of the Buccaneers. That second transaction occurred Tuesday, as the Buccaneers shipped an undisclosed draft pick to the New York Jets to reacquire the former Syracuse linebacker.
The Bucs originally signed Mackey as a rookie free agent on May 3 after the completion of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was then released on June 19 and subsequently signed by the Jets on August 4. The Bucs moved to bring him back a day after placing two linebackers, Antoine Cash and Sam Olajubutu, on injured reserve.
"He's a versatile guy," said Gruden of Mackey. "He's going to play on the outside for the most part. He's played a little bit of Mike but we'll look at him on the outside."
The great nephew of Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, he moved from middle to outside linebacker as a senior in 2006 and racked up 64 tackles, one interception, one sack and one fumble returned for a touchdown.
Additional Injury Updates
While the Bucs were still awaiting word on Sears' prognosis Tuesday afternoon, they did have a good feel for the minor ailments being endured by cornerback Phillip Buchanon (hand), safety Tanard Jackson (hamstring) and center John Wade (nausea). None are considered long-term concerns, though the team has not yet decided if Buchanon and Jackson will play on Saturday.
"I don't know that [Buchanon] will play in this game; I don't know that he won't," said Gruden. "He'll be ready for the regular season; he's doing just fine. But he does have a sore hand and he didn't go today."
The same appears to be true of Jackson, who came out late in last Saturday's game at Jacksonville after feeling a mild twinge in his leg.
"We'll adjust every day accordingly," said Gruden. "Sometimes guys are quick healers, sometimes they're not. So I'm not going to speculate other than right now both of those guys didn't practice and their status for this game is in question."
Wade was simply overcome by the oppressive heat the Bucs have been dealing with on the practice field for the last two weeks, whether it was at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex or back at team headquarters.
"He got sick," said Gruden. "John Wade looked like he got taken back by the heat a little bit today, and he's had a history of doing that."