Just as Tampa Bay's starting offensive line appeared to be set and started to gel, two injuries on Monday night put the Buccaneers' O-line back to square one.
Bucs left guard Kerry Jenkins suffered a cracked fibula in the third quarter in the game against St. Louis and didn't return. He'll miss approximately 2-4 weeks. In addition, right tackle Kenyatta Walker suffered a high ankle sprain and will probably miss at least one month.
"Kerry Jenkins has a small crack in his left fibula and it looks like he'll be out two to four weeks," said Gruden. "Kenyatta Walker has a high ankle sprain. It's fairly serious and he could be out a month. We'll see how that goes, but obviously that's a big loss to our football team."
Tackle/guard Cornell Green, who started at right tackle in the first game of the regular season against the Saints, will start in place of Walker.
"It looks like Cornell Green will start at right tackle," said Gruden. "Todd Washington will also start. We're going to look for ways to maybe add a player to help us out."
Tampa Bay is expected to sign at least one free agent offensive lineman as early as Tuesday afternoon. One of those players could be guard Russ Hochstein, who the team released last week.
"There's speculation and there's some possibilities," Gruden said when asked if Russ Hochstein would possibly be re-signed. "But I don't want to make any statements that I can't backup. We're going to look into the availability of a lot of players today and hopefully we'll have some news for you within the next several hours."
Tampa Bay backup center/guard Todd Washington, who started at right guard in place of Cosey Coleman in four preseason games and the first game of the regular season, will now start at left guard in place of Jenkins.
"Todd Washington is a guy that we think has some promise as a center," said Gruden. He's a versatile guy and we think he can play either guard position. I can't speak for him and where his comfort level is. But I believe as a veteran football player, he'll be ready for the challenge. We'll see how it goes out on the practice field."
Gruden said the offensive line had to overcome its two losses in a hurry.
"When you lose a veteran player like a Kerry Jenkins and a guy that has shown promise in the last couple of games in Kenyatta Walker, it's a serious blow to your team," said Gruden. "I know Bill Muir, myself and the rest of the team are looking forward to meeting that challenge this week.
"We've got to look at this optimistically, but at the same time, we are very concerned about the depth on our offensive line. Those are two guys that had been performing very well for us."
In other injury news, weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks suffered a hamstring pull and missed most of the fourth quarter. But Brooks returned to the lineup for one play in the fourth quarter after Al Singleton was shaken up on the previous play. Brooks intercepted Rams QB Kurt Warner and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Brooks raced into the end zone and straight into the tunnel to start nursing the injury. He will probably be questionable for Sunday's game at Cincinnati. His injury could mean more playing time for rookie linebacker Ryan Nece as well as the possibility of Shelton Quarles moving to the strongside and Al Singleton moving over to fill the void left by Brooks if he can't play.
"Hopefully he can find a way to play this week," Gruden said of Brooks. "He's got a little bit of clout around here, so if he feels like he can go, that's good enough for all of us at One Buccaneer Place.
"Whether or not we shuffle our outside linebackers and move (Nate Webster) to the middle will be determined within the next 48 hours."
Brian Kelly, who also hauled in an interception in the fourth quarter, will probably be listed as questionable for Sunday's game with a shoulder sprain.
CAN'T THEY BOTH JUST GET ALONG?
Gruden and Tampa Bay wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson got into a heated war of words on the sideline in the second half of the Bucs-Rams game on Monday night. Gruden and Johnson reportedly were involved in a sideline argument during last Sunday's game at Baltimore, but just as he did last week, Gruden shrugged off the incident and suggested more was made of it than was needed.
"He comes over to me four or five times during 7-on-7," said Gruden. "I talked with Keyshawn this morning and he's a battler. He was in the heat of battle and I wish the camera would stay on the field instead of on the sidelines. But what can you say about some of the plays that guy made last night? He made a third-and-15 catch. Put that on the highlight reel.
"There's going to be outbursts of emotion from No. 19 and certainly I have a tendency to get a little excited one in a while. But I love the guy and I respect him tremendously. I think he knows that. Sometimes there are some sparks that fly in the heat of the battle."
The argument started after Gruden called a play that left Johnson on the sideline on a critical third down play in the fourth quarter.
Gruden said Johnson, who has hauled in 12 passes for 182 yards in three games this season, is more than welcome to take his frustration out on him when he needs to.
"If he wants to vent on me, he's going to vent on me," said Gruden. "He knows that and I want this guy to go back to whatever phase of emotion he can reach on game day. I don't want to encourage these sideline things, but this was a great victory for our football team and we're talking about two guys late in the ball game that are emotional. I'm going to put this to rest now."
TAKING THEIR SHOTS?
Tampa Bay QB Brad Johnson's longest completion this season went for 38 yards. While it shouldn't surprise anyone that Gruden's offense is based more on intermediate routes than it is fly routes, it would be nice to see the offense stretch the field with a vertical game once in a while. Gruden said Tuesday morning that the team has called and will take their shots downfield.
"We're going to take our chances," said Gruden. "We had several shots called. When you're playing a team with two deep and five under. They're re-routing your receivers and they've got a pretty good pass rush. It's hard when the middle linebacker is dropping 18-20 yards to defy vertical throwing lanes.
"I think St. Louis found out last night that it's hard to take shots without holding the ball and being subject to sacks and to the turnover. We will take some shots and hopefully we'll deliver those soon."
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE BENGALS:
Tampa Bay will prepare to take on the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday. Not only do they have a short week to prepare for the 0-3 Bengals, but the Bucs must prepare to face a new quarterback, too. The Bengals will start former first-round pick Akili Smith on Sunday.
"Being a guy that likes studying that position, I studied (Smith) coming out of Oregon," said Gruden. "You see a guy that has great ability and they've had some changes there in terms of the system they run over the last couple of years. That's tough on the development of a young quarterback. But he's dangerous. He's an athlete and he's got ability to create plays. He has a supporting cast with Peter Warrick and Cory Dillon. They've got some players there that are dangerous. In the next couple of weeks, starting this week, we're going to see some real athletes at that position."
The Bucs refused to focus on the winless Rams' record last week and they plan on taking the same approach while preparing for the winless Bengals this week.
"It's hard to win on the road in the NFL," said Gruden. "We're facing a team that's making a dramatic change at the quarterback position. We know that the Bengals are going to be ready to fight. They were the talk of the team at some point this offseason as the team that was going to explode onto the scene and they still may. They're dangerous and when our team starts looking at the film I think they'll respect that. We take nothing for granted here and we don't discriminate against anyone. We need to play at the same level to win. That will be a challenge because we have some guys injured, so practice may not be as physical this week. But we still have a lot of preparation to do for a very talented team."
Cincinnati has been outscored 57-3 in the first half of its games this season. Tampa Bay wants to get a fast start in Cincinnati on Sunday just like they did in Baltimore when they scored 10 points in the first quarter.
"Our mentality is to start as fast as we can and apply as much pressure as we can in all three phases of our game," said Gruden. "I don't believe they've hit the level they're going to hit at some point this season. You have to start fast and apply pressure in this league to win, especially on the road."
IT'S NO GOOD:
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their bid for rezoning the land the team wanted to build a new training facility on turned down by Hillsborough County commissioners in a 5-2 vote on Tuesday.
The new training facility, which the team wanted built near Interstate 75 and Fletcher Avenue in Tampa, included 300,000 square feet of office and equipment space and three lighted practice fields. Nearly $12 million in public money will be used to build the new facility. Wherever and whenever it is actually built is now another story.
"I don't know about zoning ordinances," said Bucs head coach Jon Gruden. "I know a lot about zone blocking and zone coverage. But we love One Buc Place and we have a beautiful team meeting room here. That will work itself out. I try not to worry things outside of One Buc."
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