Oct 13, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks (77) watches from the sidelines during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Why Is Carl Nicks Still On the Active Roster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Carl Nicks contracted a MRSA infection during the preseason, and it further complicated his already worrisome foot, which was injured in 2012 and reportedly would never be fully healthy again.

But when Nicks returned to the field early in the 2013 season, there was hope that the former All Pro at guard could put the injury concerns behind and move forward with the Buccaneers, providing help at left guard to get the running game going and protecting rookie Mike Glennon.

But Nicks would have to undergo surgery to remove MRSA from his foot, and has been out ever since. He hasn’t even been questionable or doubtful for a game, and has been ruled out at the start of the week nearly every week.

As ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas points out, a media member asked about Nicks for the first time in a while this week, and Greg Schiano didn’t have a clear answer as to the status of Nicks.

It’s clear that Nicks isn’t close to coming back, and that even if he made a recovery to practice next week, he wouldn’t be in game shape before the season came to a close. So what is he doing on the active roster?

Two options spring to mind from a cynical point of view:

  • The Buccaneers don’t want to put Nicks on Injured Reserve and draw the ire of the NFLPA, who are investigating claims that Greg Schiano and the front office poorly handled Lawrence Tynes’ placement on the non-football injury list after he contracted MRSA and required surgery to clean out the infection. Putting Nicks on Injured Reserve admits fault from the Buccaneers, something they were unwilling to do with the Tynes situation.
  • Greg Schiano knows he needs to win as many games as possible, and he refuses to shut down Nicks because he knows how great of a player he is, and knows he can help the offensive line even if he’s only playing at 70% of his normal level of play.

The third, and less cynical, option is that the Bucs truly didn’t know Carl’s status moving forward, and have held out hope that he’s close to returning. But considering his absence for the past couple of months, I doubt he ever seemed very close to a return to football.

I think the main priority for the Buccaneers should be to allow Carl Nicks to fully recover from the MRSA infection and from his other foot ailments and start the 2014 season as healthy as can be. There are a lot of dollars tied up in the talented guard’s contract, and he can be an impact player when he’s good to go. The Bucs must do what they can to keep a key piece of the offense’s talent ready for more important games down the road.

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