Blocking Wounded

September 25 - Tampa Bay's offensive line will have two new starters when they play Cincinnati on Sunday, but this isn't anything new to the team and it's nothing new to G Todd Washington and T Cornell Green, who have each started a game this season. Both players will start this Sunday against the Bengals.

Another game, another new offensive lineman. What else is new? The Bucs offense has seen this before, but this time it's different. Tampa Bay will be without starting left guard Kerry Jenkins and right tackle Kenyatta Walker for about one month, which means backup right tackle Cornell Green and backup guard Todd Washington will be back in the starting lineup.

"We're kind of used to having different guys on the line," said QB Brad Johnson. It's something we faced all spring in terms of who was going to play what position and what guys were going to be starting and that whole deal. Having those two guys go down last week hurts your team, but that's where depth comes into play. Guys have to be prepared. That's what we talk about in training camp. Those guys are going to come in and play great. You can't blink in this type of situation. We have a big week in terms of preparing for their zone blitzes, so guys have to step up and really take their game to a new level."

This won't be the first time Green and Walker start on the offensive line this season. In fact, they each started against the Saints on opening day. Green played in place of Walker, who was struggling at the time, and Washington played at right guard in place of Cosey Coleman while he nursed a knee injury during preseason.

"When somebody goes down we know we have to be ready to step up," said Green. "It's just like a job. You have to be ready for anything that's going to happen, but you don't know what's going to happen. You just have to be ready."

Green plans on making the best of his second stint as a starter.

"It helped out a lot," Green said of his starting experience at right tackle earlier in the season. "It gave me a lot more experience and it got me used to the game tempo and the entire situation."

Washington admitted he didn't perform as well as he wanted to when he filled in for Coleman at right guard. But Washington said Wednesday that he looks forward to redeeming himself.

"It's another opportunity for me," said Washington. "Unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of the opportunity against the Saints at right guard. But luckily I have a chance to redeem myself and play better at left guard this week. That's the only way you should approach it. You can't be sulking or sour about it. If you aren't playing well, you don't deserve to play."

Washington, who can play center and guard, feels like he can play better at left guard than right guard.

"Things are mirrored," Washington said of playing both guard positions. "Mentally I just have to reverse everything in my mind. I can play all three well. I love center. It's a given. If that center spot is open, I'm jumping all over that. But playing left guard is something I would rather do if I couldn't play center. I just prefer playing that side."

But Washington might not have long to redeem himself. Jenkins, who is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game and is expected to be out a month with a cracked fibula, may return to action sooner than anticipated.

"I list him as 'probable,'" Gruden said smiling. "I don't know about some of these guys. Kerry Jenkins, I don't think, has ever missed a football game. This is one tough guy. It is a legitimate crack in his fibula but we're going to list him as doubtful largely because of the kind of guy he is and his eagerness to play."

As for Walker, he had a cast on his left ankle and was walking with crutches on Wednesday. While he's not expected to be back in the starting lineup for at least a month, Walker said he wants to be ready for the Bucs' game against Cleveland on October 13th.

"We'll see where my status is next Monday," said Walker. I'm shooting for two weeks -- the Cleveland game. I can't wait four weeks."

Although its ranked 23rd in the NFL, Tampa Bay's offense feels like it's improving each week. That said, they don't plan on moving backward because of the injuries suffered on the offensive line.

"When you've got guys down, it gives the other guys the opportunity they were waiting for," said Bucs RG Cosey Coleman. "As a reserve player in the NFL, you have to kind of be patient and when you get the opportunity you have to step up and make the best of it. That's the position those guys are placed in and we're asking them to be accountable. We're not expecting those guys to come in and be a weakness. We're expecting them to come in and keep this thing rolling and improving."

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All photos are courtesy of Pewter Report director of photography Cliff Welch unless otherwise noted.

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