The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been relatively fortunate in regard to injuries in 2010, though luck in this case is somewhat the residue of design. Tampa Bay's roster is significantly younger, overall, than it has been in many seasons, and thus one would expect it to be a little less susceptible to breakdowns.
Still, injuries are unavoidable during a long season, and the Buccaneers were obviously reminded of that this week when starting center Jeff Faine went down with a quad injury. Faine will not require surgery but will miss several weeks.
In addition, the Bucs have a handful of players who would best be described as "day-to-day" as the team prepares for a very important game against the visiting New Orleans Saints on Sunday. That group includes breakout rookie Mike Williams, starting left defensive end Kyle Moore and starting fullback/jack-of-all-trades Earnest Graham.
In the midst of his outstanding seven-catch, 99-yard performance at Cincinnati on Sunday, Williams suffered a foot strain. He practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday but was given the day off on Thursday. Williams leads the Buccaneers and all NFL rookie wide receivers with 19 catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns.
"Today we gave him a break protecting our investment. We'll get him out there hopefully either tomorrow or Saturday and see if he can get ready to go on Sunday."
The Buccaneers have been trying to help Moore manage an aching shoulder for awhile, but he has yet to miss any game time. He has sat out both practices so far this week and Morris is leaning towards giving him Friday off as well.
"[The injury] bothered him early in the preseason, got to him a little bit," said the coach. "He banged it up coming off the Pittsburgh game, went out there this week and banged it up a little more. We kind of held him back a little bit during the week of the bye week trying to get him ready, and now we're going to hold him a little bit this week and see what we can do with him by the end of the week."
Moore has started each of the Buccaneers' first four games. If he is unable to play against the Saints, the Bucs have several players ready to step up and handle more playing time.
"Tim Crowder's been there," said Morris. "We've got Michael Bennett up. He put a helmet on last week and you got a chance to see him for the first time. We use Quincy Black out there a little bit at the end spot, do some things with him."
Graham was a Thursday addition to the Buccaneers' official injury report after practicing without limitations on Wednesday. He is dealing with a sore hamstring and seems to be a good bet to play on Sunday against the Saints. Though he has just 14 carries through four games, Graham has been extremely valuable for the Buccaneers in a variety of ways, including as the team's starting fullback. That was obvious this past Sunday when his contributions included a 61-yard run from the one-yard line, a fantastic one-yard touchdown run and the conversion of a third-and-one with a three-yard blast.
"We're just protecting him a little bit, holding him back," said Morris. "Earnest likes to walk around and pretend that he's 22 but he's not. He's just a little sore. I think he's day-to-day and I think he'll be fine."
There are a total of eight players on Tampa Bay's Thursday injury report, with Graham's late addition. The only other one who did not practice at all on Thursday is cornerback Elbert Mack, who has a foot ailment. Mack has been serving as the team's fourth corner behind starters Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib and nickel back E.J. Biggers. If Mack's absence extends through Sunday, rookie Myron Lewis, the team's third-round pick this past April, could see his first NFL regular-season action.
"Myron might get an opportunity," said Morris. "He's been practicing the last two days and he's really stepped his game up. He's been getting better and better in practice. He's one of the young, ascending players I've been talking to you about. I look forward to him possibly getting an opportunity. We'll see where we are tomorrow."
Safety Sean Jones (back), linebacker Niko Koutouvides (ankle) and tight end Kellen Winslow (knee) are also on Tampa Bay's injury report, but all three were able to participate fully in practice on Thursday. That's a sign of improvement for Jones, who missed all but one snap in Sunday's game in Cincinnati and was held out of practice on Wednesday.