The Bucs are wrapping up their final week of OTAs mandatory mini camping starts from June 13-15. Players have come and gone over the weeks, with appearances from the likes of Chris Godwin, Vita Vea, Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis III and Mike Evans.
And while players attend of their own volition, there are a number of players who simply cannot participate due to physical limitations.
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles is expected to have all hands on deck at the start of the team’s mandatory mini-camp next Tuesday. When asked if the Bucs expected players to be sidelined with injuries next week, Bowles said no.
“Not at the moment, no,” Bowles said.
“Big Red” seen on Bucs OTAs
One of those players injured is Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen. He missed the entire season last season with a knee injury, but returned to play in the Bucs’ playoff loss to the Cowboys.
Jensen opted not to have surgery last year and is taking it slowly but surely this offseason. He was at the OTA on Tuesday, which was open to the media but was just around the team as a spectator. Todd Bowles spoke after practice about Jensen, who wore a knee brace and was very vague about his availability in next week’s mandatory mini-camp.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Bowles said. “That’s it off and on. We’ll see how he feels in camp.”
The good thing about the Bucs is that they have a lot of depth in the offensive line. Robert Hainsey, who started the entire 2022 regular season at center with Jensen out, can return to that position in Jensen’s absence, while also being the best backup when everyone is healthy. Nick Leverett started for Tampa Bay last year at guard, but also got reps at center this season.
Rookie UDFA RB makes his Bucs debut?
In another scenario, the Bucs were very excited about a rookie undrafted free agent Sean Tucker running back. Unfortunately, Tucker had a heart condition that prevented him from being drafted despite his talented skills. Tucker has been watching the practice every day, but is not yet able to participate. Bowles gave a little bit more of an update on his status.
“I haven’t been told anything yet,” Bowles said. “I would expect him somewhere around training camp – I’m not sure for next week.”
Rachaad White will be the top running back for the Bucs this year, but Tucker could be behind him for second. Tampa Bay has veterans Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Chase Edmonds in the backfield along with practice squad player Patrick Laird. The player who probably stood out the most is fellow independent free agent Ronnie Brown.
Baker Mayfield makes news about Russell Gage
Another player we haven’t seen in practice yet is wide receiver Russell Gage. Todd Bowles has refused to talk about injuries at this point in the season, but it was Baker Mayfield a few weeks ago that may have revealed something is up with the wide receiver, as Mayfield answered a question that complimented the entire wide receiver room.
“Russian [Gage Jr.] had a little injury last week, but he was doing really well before that,” Mayfield said. “We have a lot of speed, a lot of young speed. I’m just trying to let these guys find their role and find their place in this system. We are excited about what we can become with all the weapons we have.”
The scary thing is that Gage was injured in training camp last year and it played a part in derailing his season as he never fully recovered from a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay doesn’t need another repeat of a season that disappointed expectations.
We’ll have to wait and see if he’s here next week.
Defensively, the main injury question is outside of linebacker Shaq Barrett, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in a Week 8 loss to Baltimore. Barrett is not expected back anytime soon. His target return date is sometime in August during training camp – or perhaps September pre-season, depending on how much progress Barrett makes in rehab.
There’s still a matter of another high-profile defenseman arriving at the mandatory mini-camp — inside linebacker Devin White. But that’s another Pewter Report article in full.
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