Chukwurah probably out for season opener

Patrick Chukwurah wants to be back for this weekend's season opener against Seattle. But both he and head coach Jon Gruden said Monday that they're not sure if that's realistic as Chukwurah rehabs a partially torn MCL.

Right defensive end Patrick Chukwurah said Monday that he's making progress in rehabbing the partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, which has kept him off the field since Aug. 25.

Chukwurah called himself "day-by-day," in terms of his status for Sunday's season opener against Seattle.

"I'm taking baby steps," Chukwurah said. "It's getting better. I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm going to be ready to go on Sunday."

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden is hedging his bets, too, but we so far as to say that Chukwurah was likely the only player on the roster that would not play on Sunday.

"Patrick Chukwurah is that one that, it looks like he'll be out of the game," Gruden said. "Everyone else looks status quo, ready to go."

Chukwurah injured the knee in the first half of the Miami game on Aug. 25. Publicly, Gruden has only said that it's a knee injury and that Chukwurah was "week-to-week" before all but ruling out the end after Monday's workout.

Chukwurah said he knew something was up when the injury occurred.

"I knew something was wrong because I walked off the field and it didn't feel normal," Chukwurah said. "They had to come get me (the trainers)."

Chukwurah came to Tampa Bay in the offseason as a free agent. Before this season he had never been a regular starter in six NFL seasons. The closest he came was five starts with Minnesota in 2001-02. But those starts were at linebacker.

Gruden has not announced a starter for Sunday's game at right end, but it's likely that first-round pick Gaines Adams will get the nod.

Chukwurah, meanwhile, will continue his rehab this week. He said his hope is to be ready for the home opener against New Orleans.

"(The recovery time is) supposed to be 3-6 weeks, you know what I'm saying?" Chukwurah said. "But I plan on being back in three weeks. Hopefully, if not before that."

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for 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.

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