We should be talking about how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 7-7 and potentially a week away from clinching a playoff berth, but it's unfortunately not the only thing happening.
One of the biggest storylines on Sunday has spun into this week, as the drama around Devin White and what exactly happened to cause him to be inactive against the Packers is up for debate. Intially it was rpeorted by NFL Network that the reason was not injury related, something that Todd Bowles countered in his postgame comments.
After the game, Bowles told the media that White didn't think his foot was ready and that he 'couldn't go', which prompted him to be made inactive. That's all well and good, but a day later Bowles indicated that the team knew as early as Friday that White wasn't going to play which is where things potentially get sticky.
Did Buccaneers violate NFL rules handling Devin White's situation?
A lot has happened in the few days since all of this went down, so here are the cliff notes:
- Devin White had missed the last two games with a foot injury
- He was listed as 'questionable' on the Bucs final injury report
- Despite this, he practiced all week and flew with the team to Green Bay
- After the game, Rick Stroud reported that the Bucs had already decided to start K.J. Britt over White before ruling him inactive
- White reportedly told the team he 'couldn't go', and was made inactive
There's a lot of potential reading between the lines there. Where most of the issues seems to stem from is the way the Bucs are speaking about this publically. It really feels like the confusing way things are being explained is to help cover for White rather than throw him under the bus.
One reading of this situation is that White didn't like that he was being benched and used his injury designation as a way to call in sick at the last minute. Stroud's report after the game that White's attitude has rubbed coaches and teammates the wrong way seems to support this narrative.
Mike Florio over at ProFootballTalk raised the alarm over whether or not the Bucs might have violated NFL rules in handling of the whole situation. While White was on the injury report, Florio points out that the confusing way Todd Bowles and the team have described the timeline of events opens them up to potential investigation.
"In this case, it’s possible that the Bucs are using the injury excuse as cover for White tapping out. The problem is that the failure to downgrade White could get them in hot water with the league," Florio noted.
It's unlikely that anything comes of this other than some unnecessary awkwardness. The league investigated the Bengals for misreporting an injury to Joe Burrow but no punishment was handed down. White was on the injury report and was ruled inactive, and there's no real smoking gun here in terms of when the team knew and when his status as being ruled out should have been communicated.
This whole situation is one giant mess that is overshadowing an otherwise fantastic weekend for the Bucs. It's also a potential indictment of the coaching staff, even if the mishandling of things is well-intentioned.