Buccaneers vs Panthers: Five game-changing players for Week 8
By Bailey Adams
Wouldn’t this be interesting? T.J. Ward was a late addition to the Buccaneer defense, signing with the team on Sept. 3. To make room, Tampa Bay traded safety J.J. Wilcox. Oddly enough, Ward hasn’t been treated like a starter. He is splitting time, fairly unevenly, with the rest of the safeties. That has decreased his production. He is not happy. From after Sunday’s loss to the Bills:
"“I came here to be an impact player. I can’t do that if I’m not out on the field… You have to ask Mike Smith and [coach] Dirk Koetter about that, but I’m at my wit’s end. I did not come here to rotate. I did not come here to be a part-time player.”"
Ward missed training camp in Denver with an injury, got cut, then signed with the Bucs. A hip injury limited him early in the season, but his recent lack of snaps doesn’t seem injury-related. As a three-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl champion, Ward is the type of player that should impact the defense. For whatever reason, the coaches aren’t liking what they’re seeing with him.
There are a couple ways this could go. The coaches could be unhappy with Ward‘s comments and play him even less. That wouldn’t be smart, honestly, but it could happen. They could continue to limit his snaps, of course, or they could give him more looks. Regardless of whether it’s in a limited or full-time role, look for the veteran to have a nice day on Sunday to prove he should still be a full-time starter.