While the injury appeared to be serious when it first occurred, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Monday that he expects Lynch to play this Sunday against the Lions.
"John Lynch has a neck strain," said Gruden. "We're going to list him as questionable for this game. He has some soreness in there, but we're going to be optimistic and hope that he can return to practice. But that's what we list him as."
Lynch suffered the injury after making a tackle and he had some "tingling" and "numbness" immediately after the initial contact. Lynch was immediately taken into the locker room after he walked off of the field, but the team was relieved when x-rays didn't reveal anything serious.
"Well, we're calling it a neck strain, but I believe he did suffer some tingling and some numbness for some period of time and we're very concerned about that," said Gruden. "All the x-rays seem to be negative and we're just going to refer to this as a neck strain and hopefully he'll be ready to go this week."
Lynch was replaced by second-year S John Howell, who was tested immediately by Atlanta head coach Dan Reeves. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick ran a naked bootleg to the strongside of the field on a third-and-1 play, but Howell stay disciplined on the play and sacked Vick for a 6-yard loss. The play also caused the Falcons to punt.
"He did a great job," Gruden said of Howell. "I think the first play he was in there and was a key third-and-1 and they ran a naked bootleg to our left and (Howell) made a timely play for a sack. I thought he played extremely well."
If Lynch cannot play Sunday, Gruden said the team will make adjustments and call upon Howell, FS Dexter Jackson and rookie S Jermaine Phillips to help fill the void if its left by Lynch.
"Our own draft pick Jermaine Phillips would obviously have to be ready to perform," Gruden said. "Dexter Jackson is a guy that can play both safety positions and knowing Monte (Kiffin) and Mike Tomlin, we'll have the ace in our pocket that we'll try to rev up this week. But I don't want to say anything right now or predict what's going to happen. We expect Lynch to play and be our starting safety."
Several other Bucs players suffered minor injuries against the Falcons, but they're all listed as probable for Sunday's game at Detroit.
"(Wide receiver) Joe Jurevicius has a right ankle sprain, (cornerback) Dwight Smith has a right knee sprain, (left guard) Kerry Jenkins has a right knee contusion, (WR) Keenan McCardell has a left quad contusion and (defensive end) Ellis Wyms – his right ankle is improving. All of those men will be listed as probable for the game."
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