Let's start with the bad news.
As PewterReport.com reported immediately after Tampa Bay's 23-20 win over Detroit last Sunday, Buccaneers starting defensive nose tackle Anthony McFarland will miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden elaborated on McFarland's injury on Monday morning from his press conference at One Buccaneer Place.
"Anthony McFarland has a right foot fracture and he'll be out for the season," Gruden said. "Obviously that's a big blow to our team. For whatever reason it's been a tough year for him with the broken arm and now the foot. But he will be out for the remainder of this season."
McFarland recorded 20 tackles and two sacks in 10 games this season. He was sidelined for four games with a fractured forearm he had suffered against Carolina on October 27. McFarland had just returned from that injury on Dec. 8 against Atlanta.
The 6-foot, 300-pound nose tackle was one of the main reasons why Tampa Bay's defense was ranked No. 1 against the run and No. 1 overall. Before he fractured his forearm, "Booger" was one of Tampa Bay's most disruptive players in the trenches. He drew double teams often, which helped Bucs under tackle Warren Sapp record eight sacks. Sapp has not recorded a sack since McFarland left the Bucs' game against the Panthers on Oct. 27 with the injury to his arm.
While the Bucs' defense will obviously miss McFarland, the team is confident that DT Chartric Darby and defensive end/DT Ellis Wyms will fill in well at the nose tackle position just as they did when McFarland was sidelined the earlier in the season.
"Well, I don't want to take anything away from Chuck Darby," said Gruden. "He played very well and Ellis Wyms had a couple of rock-solid games for us. Ellis has been hurt and hasn't been able to play in the last two games. But I thought those guys stepped up and played very well and we won some games, including Green Bay, without Anthony McFarland. But let's be honest, Anthony is a great player and it's hard to replace guys like that, but we have some good players that will step up and meet the challenge."
Tampa Bay also feared it had lost backup middle linebacker Nate Webster for the season after he went down in the game against Detroit, but further exams showed that Webster only suffered a knee sprain. While he will likely be listed as questionable for Monday night's game, Webster will definitely play against this season.
"Nate Webster had some examinations done this morning and he has right knee sprain," said Gruden. "We feel like he's going to be questionable for this game. It's not as severe as we had feared leaving Detroit last night. We expect him to find a way to play."
Tampa Bay starting quarterback Brad Johnson will also appear on the team's official injury report, which will be released Wednesday. Johnson, who completed 24-of-41 passes for 253 yards despite being under a tremendous amount of pressure from Detroit's defense, injured the thumb on his throwing hand as well as a back contusion.
"Brad Johnson has a sore right thumb," Gruden said. "He sprained that thumb yesterday during the game and he also has a lower back contusion. He's a very gimpy man today.
"Yeah, he was hurting (during the game). The ball wasn't flying out of his hand the way we have seen it the last few weeks at times. He took some hits early, but what can I say? He was able to finish the game and made some critical throws in the last two scoring drives to help us earn a victory. But he's got a sore body."
Although the team expects Brad Johnson to start against Pittsburgh next Monday night, Gruden suggested backup QB Shaun King may receive some extra reps this week during practice.
"Well, we'll give Shaun (King) all of the reps if Brad (Johnson) can't take them," Gruden said. "If Brad is ready to go he's taking the majority of the snaps and we'll adjust it as we learn a little more about the severity of Brad's injuries."
Gruden's injury report didn't stop there, but the severity of the injuries did.
"We have an assortment of (other) injuries," Gruden said. "(Cornerback) Ronde Barber has a right knee sprain, Ellis Wyms is recovering from a right ankle sprain. We're going to list all of those guys as probable, but they could possibly be limited on the practice field for a couple of days."
"(Cornerback) Dwight Smith has a left gluteal contusion. That doesn't sound like Dwight, but we're going to list him as probable. Warren Sapp has a right elbow bruise. (Tight end) Todd Yoder, (wide receiver) Keyshawn Johnson, (cornerback) Corey Ivy and (linebacker) Jack Golden all have some body bruises and things of that nature. But all of those guys will be listed as probable, although their availability on the practice field will be in question. I can update you on Wednesday."
Well, there is good news to report. Bucs starting strong safety John Lynch, who missed Sunday's game due to a neck strain he suffered against Atlanta, has been upgraded to probable and will likely start against Pittsburgh on Monday night.
"We're going to upgrade John Lynch to probable and we expect him to play this week," said Gruden. "Provided there are no setbacks and all systems are go, we expect to have our captain back.
While Tampa Bay will likely have at least 12 players listed on its injury report, Gruden said it's not that unusual this time of the season to have so many banged up players.
"It's just like everybody else this time of year, honestly, that's feeling the long the long, lengthy season," Gruden said of amount of injuries he team has. "It's going to be a very physical game on Monday night and we need to get these guys well. There's a lot of pressure on (head trainer) Todd Toriscelli and his staff in the next couple of days."
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