Saturday night was one of conflicting emotion for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs won their preseason finale, beating the Ravens 26-20 in a game where a handful of guys showcased their skills and gave reason for fans to feel confident heading into the season. That confidence was rattled during a mid-game interview with general manager Jason Licht, though, when he revealed Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen was being placed on IR and would miss the entire season.
It marks the second straight season that Jensen will miss after suffering a knee injury at training camp a year ago. The news was a massive bummer but wasn’t entirely surprising; Jensen had yet to participate in practice and wasn’t close to suiting up for the team.
Another Buccaneers starter is in an almost identical position, which is naturally causing some concern.
Buccaneers rumors: Antoine Winfield Jr. might not be healthy Week 1
It’s been a few weeks since we’ve seen safety Antoine Winfield Jr suit up for the Bucs in practice, and he has yet to make his on-field debut in a game this preseason. Unlike Jensen we have seen Winfield at practice since the start of training camp, but the similarities in their situations make them hard to not connect and feel anxious about.
Winfield hasn’t played in any game action, has been missing practices, and has been nursing a leg injury for over a week now. He was also among the Bucs who sat out Saturday’s preseason finale despite the fact that most starters played at least a few drives as a final tune up.
Simply put, it’s not looking great that Winfield will be healthy when Week 1 rolls around.
To be fair, Winfield isn’t the only injured Bucs player trying to get healthy before the season begins. Rookies Calijah Kancey and SirVocea Dennis both look questionable to start the season healthy, and head coach Todd Bowles didn’t sound overly optimistic when mentioning their status.
“[Antoine] Winfield, Calijah [Kancey], SirVocea [Dennis], hopefully they make progress by the end of the week,” Bowles said. “We’ll see how they go going into the game week right now, but we’re hopeful that they can be ready.”
Winfield has two weeks to get healthy before the Bucs head up to Minnesota to being their season. The good news is the Bucs safety room appears to be one of the strongest in the league. Rookie Christian Izien was named a starter after Saturday’s preseason finale, and Ryan Neal already looks like an absolute steal.
The Bucs need Winfield healthy, but if he ends up missing the start of the season there are guys ready to step up and make up the difference.