Bucs' P Mark Royals Out 3-4 Weeks

July 31 - The Buccaneers learned the extent of P Mark Royals' leg injury today, and the news is better than they had first presumed. Royals suffered a sprained MCL when he was accidentally ran into by one of the teammates in a punting drill in Monday's afternoon practice. The 13-year veteran will miss some time, but Tampa Bay expects Royals to be ready for opening day against Dallas on September 9.

After watching Bucs' P Mark Royals hit the ground in Monday's afternoon practice, one could only fear for the worst. A day later, Royals' leg is mobilized in a brace, but both he and Tampa Bay expect Royals to be ready to punt by opening day against the Dallas Cowboys.

"All I know is I have a sprained MCL," said Royals. "If you're going to have something sprained, that is the one to get sprained. I certainly think I will be ready for opening day."

A MCL sprain usually takes approximately four weeks to heal. Bucs' fans should be all too familiar with this injury. Just last season, FB Mike Alstott and WR Karl Williams suffered MCL sprains and were sidelined for about four weeks each.

Royals plans to make it back in time for the Dallas game, but will begin rehabbing some time before that game. Royals feels it is critical for him to rehab as soon as possible so that he can maintain his leg strength, but he is not as worried about his state of mind.

"I think physically, once I'm able to start rehabbing, I don't see that (coming back and being effective) being a problem," said Royals. "I'm going to aggressively rehab. Mentally, I think I've been fortunate to play the game a long time and all I will need is a couple of days to get in shape to kick. I will work hard to keep my leg strength. But as far as being ready, I don't think that is going to take long."

As Royals was helped off of the field, one could see the devastation and disappointment in his face, and after not suffering a significant injury in his 13-year career until yesterday, one could understand why. But Royals is happy to know that he still has a great chance to be part of something special this season.

"This is really such an exciting year with all of the possibilities in front of us," said Royals. "To think I would miss out on an opportunity to be part of it was very frustrating. You never want to say an injury is good news, but I guess in this case, it's a good scenario."

With no Royals on the field, P Andrew Bayes had a microscope on him this morning. Bayes will temporarily fill the void left by Royals' injury. But Bayes feels like this is a good opportunity for him to display his abilities as a punter in the NFL.

Bayes spent this spring over in NFL Europe, punting for Frankfurt Galaxy. He averaged 38 yards per punt and lacked consistency. But since head coach Tony Dungy has said the team will not sign another punter, they are counting on him to build off of his NFL Europe campaign in the Bucs' training camp. If Bayes does not earn a roster spot in Tampa, he is hoping he can at least build up his résumé.

"I came into training camp with aspirations of trying to win this job," said Bayes. "It is Mark's job. He's a veteran and is a guy I have looked up to ever since I started kicking. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family because this is a tough time for him. But on the other hand, I'm trying to break into the NFL and this is definitely a good opportunity for me to get out there and show the coaches and players what I can do."

Not only will the Bucs be missing Royals as their punter, but they will also need to fill his vacancy as K Martin Gramatica's holder on extra points and field goals.

Dungy hinted that the Bucs were making efforts to mold Bayes for that position as well, but he also mentioned QB Brad Johnson as a possible candidate for that job until Royals in healthy again.

Bayes has some holding experience from his college days at East Carolin. Johnson also has experience at the position, but is probably the more experienced of the two from his holding days in the NFL.

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