Tampa Bay was bitten early and often by the injury bug during training camp, but the Buccaneers thought they were going to receive some much needed relief from it after no players were seriously injured in the preseason opener against Miami.
Unfortunately for the Buccaneers, another week brings another victim, or two. Nine-year veteran C Jeff Christy suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament while blocking for Martin Gramatica on field goal attempt on Saturday night against Cleveland, which will keep him sidelined anywhere from three to five weeks.
Christy’s MCL injury is similar to the one FB Mike Alstott suffered during last year’s preseason. It took the A-Train four weeks to recover from that injury and return to action, but Dungy thinks Christy may stand a chance of returning a week earlier than Alstott did since his position does not require the vigorous cutting and running that the fullback position requires.
“It’s very similar to what Mike Alstott had last year,” said Dungy. “Mike actually got back in four weeks. That is probably our best estimate, but Jeff would not have to do some of the cutting and maneuvering that Mike would do, so he might be able to practice a little sooner than Mike did.”
Although team trainer Todd Toriscelli has estimated his recovery time to be three-five weeks away, Christy is determined to start in the first regular season game against the Dallas Cowboys on September 9.
“Jeff feels like he will play in the opener,” said Dungy. “I think Todd Toriscelli feels it may be a week after that. Right now, the opener is not out of the question, but it’s certainly not guaranteed.”
The Bucs’ starting Pro Bowl center and the rest of his offensive line were just starting to gel together this preseason, but now they will have to rally around Christy’s back-up, C/G Todd Washington.
“Todd Washington is playing very well,” said Dungy. “Todd will go in there and do a good job and we will expect to function like we always do.”
As of right now, the Buccaneers do not feel the need to dive into the free agent market to find another center. Instead, Tampa Bay will let Washington, rookie C Leon Hires and G/C Eric Thomas handle the center duties while Christy recovers.
“If Jeff was going to be out eight-ten weeks or out for the season, then we’d think a little differently,” said Dungy.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers also suffered another player injury against the Browns. Undrafted free agent LB Marq Cerqua suffered a dislocated shoulder against Cleveland on the opening kickoff, but Dungy stated he might be able to play against the Patriots.
“Marq might possibly play this week,” said Dungy. “Probably next week for sure.”
Cerqua opened some eyes by recording two sacks against Miami . Dungy thinks Cerqua might be able to fill the void left by LB Don Davis, who left Tampa Bay for St. Louis via free agency.
“Marq has done well,” said Dungy. “It’s a shame he got hurt on the kickoff and wasn’t able to play from scrimmage. He shows a lot of speed. He’s very quick and is a lot like the linebackers we have had success with in the past.”
OTHER NEWS AND NOTES:
A-TRAIN CLOSE TO BEING BACK ON TRACK?: Head coach Tony Dungy stated on Sunday evening that Pro Bowl FB Mike Alstott, who has been sidelined since week two of training camp with a strained hamstring, has a possibility of playing Saturday night against the New England Patriots. Dungy indicated that Alstott had been running, but the team would have to take a closer look at his progress on Thursday or Friday in order to determine whether or not he will be ready to play.
“He could possibly return against New England,” said Dungy. “He’s going to start running and cutting. He actually ran during the days we were in Cleveland and seems to be doing fine. He’s doing fine and will play him only if he’s 100 percent ready to play. If not, we will wait until the next week.”
ROYALS TO START PUNTING: Tampa Bay expects P Mark Royals, who suffered an MCL sprain on the second day of training camp, to start punting this week. Royals is still expected to be ready to play in the regular season opener at Dallas.
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