Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah is "week-to-week" with a knee injury, one of three Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said on Monday were battling injuries.
Gruden did not specify the severity of the injury, or how it happened. But Chukwurah did play on Saturday against Miami.
The injury could be a serious blow to the defensive end rotation, if it's serious enough to keep Chukwurah out for several weeks. Greg Spires and Kevin Carter were expected to be the left ends, while Chukwurah and first-round pick Gaines Adams were expected to play on the right side. That came after the Bucs released veteran Simeon Rice on the eve of training camp after he failed a physical and declined to take a pay cut this season.
The injury might force the Bucs to use Adams as the opening day starter, though Gruden wouldn't go that far.
"I don't know about Gaines Adams (starting), but his injury could result in somebody else starting," Gruden said. "We haven't distributed our depth chart for the opening game yet, and we have competition at defensive end."
Carter started the last two preseason games at right end. Chukwurah started the opener against New England.
Adams has played plenty this preseason. He registered his first sack against Jacksonville in the second preseason game, and Gruden said he's happy with the rookie's progress.
"The light is definitely on," Gruden said. "He had some great pressures. We really stunted for the first time in that last game and we're really pleased with the effort and the raw natural talent he has. It's all coming together. It's just a matter of time for Gaines."
Chukwurah's injury, if serious, could also affect the final roster cuts on Saturday. It would likely force the Bucs to keep an extra defensive end.
Also, tight end Alex Smith has a sprained ankle and may not play on Thursday against Houston. Gruden said Smith could not have practiced today.
"I think he'll be OK," Gruden said. "I'm confident he'll come around."
Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, Gruden said, has an injury, but was cryptic as to exactly what the injury is.
"He didn't get hurt, per se," Gruden said. "He has symptoms of having a problem. It's not a severe injury. We don't think he'll miss any time, in terms of the opening ball game. But he's on a day-to-day basis and getting treatment."
Meanwhile, safety Tanard Jackson and cornerback Phillip Buchanon are expected to play on Thursday against Houston. He also said that left guard Arron Sears is getting better after his sprained ankle last week.
"He's (Sears) working at his rehab and we feel confident that he'll be ready for the opening game," Gruden said.
Gruden also said that roster cuts would be announced at 4 p.m. Monday
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.