There are a host of injury issues that key players are dealing with currently or have intermittently throughout their careers, big names may be walking in free agency, and the lockout is pissing everyone off. The writers suffer since there is nothing on which to report, but the fans are the ones who really take it on the chin for having to read the results of that plight. How Sander pumps out nine articles a day- I'll never know.
Ranting aside, there are very real concerns that are floating around online, and without a minicamp to lift spirits with performances there are an abundance of articles discussing why the Bucs are going to be worse off than other teams this year. Not being a masochist, I've been making a conscious decision to conjure more positive thoughts (whether they are based in fantasy is debatable). Brightness lies within the bleak.
Injuries hit Tampa harder than a lot of other teams last year with starters going down. However, the team was able to still wrack up a very good season where young players grew and the inexperienced proved their mettle. Chronic injuries still provide fans with a woeful outlook.
Kellen Winslow, DaQuan Bowers, and Davin Joseph are all big investments with another commonality: knee problems. Throw in Kareem Huggins, who, from what I understand, had his leg destroyed against New Orleans. Tampa's former first round pick has seen the IR and missed multiple games in his career from intermittent knee aggravations. Bowers had people terrified to draft him because concerns arose that his knee condition may be degenerative. Winslow has experienced his first off season without knee surgery in his career, which is demonstrative of the severity of his ailment.
Away from knees, we have Gerald McCoy who ended the season on IR for his biceps while Brian Price needed his pelvis screwed together in what has yet to become anywhere close to what a medical professional would call "routine surgery." Adrian Clayborn suffers from palsy in his shoulder that cannot be cured but only managed, and Jeff Faine has started only 20 games in the last two years.
While injuries are a sizable portion of anxiety they are certainly not the whole issue. Forget if Joseph will be healthy, many are thinking he will not come back. Barrett Ruud, whom I believe to be an underrated middle linebacker, will probably not return. Tanard Jackson is a very good safety with one strike left before he's out of the league, and Aqib Talib will be tried in 2012 for the shooting that took place this spring. All of these athletes play a huge role for the team.
None of this worries me. Winslow's offseason without surgery is a great sign. He won't have to devote anytime toward rehab and this will lead to a stronger leg with more confidence. His two seasons with Tampa have yielded 32 games played and 10 touchdowns. He's going to continue being a prolific pass catcher, and to wonder in fear as to how much longer his knees can last is an overreaction based on an unfortunate past. Injuries are not predictable, and Winslow has taken remarkable care of himself since he's been in Florida. More reasonable concerns would be wondering how long he'll have his speed.
Joseph was given the opportunity to fully heal, something he didn't do last off season, when he was put on IR late this year. He's stated that coming back holds his interest as long as the situation is right (money), which every Buc fan should be pleased to hear. In the likely scenario that Ruud leaves the team has Tyrone McKenzie ready to step in and Mason Foster to provide some competition. Everyone who's been keeping up with Tampa knows they love Tyrone as a player- while he's also shown his leadership and initiative by helping organize camp with Josh Freeman. Foster is a better Will linebacker (also common knowledge) but Raheem Morris doesn't shy away from playing men out of their position (as Gerald McCoy endured last season).
Bowers stated that his knee is fully operational. He claims that he can run full speed, cut, drive, and essentially play his position without worry. Should this be true, the Tampa front office are going to look like thieves for selecting him in the second round. Let us also remember that the Buc's are wizards with knees. Winslow's been great since he arrived, Joey Galloway was able to run a sub 4.3 until his mid thirties with two fake knees, and Carnell Williams came back from two patellar injuries (one rupture, one tear) that no nfl player had successfully returned from previously. It would be remiss to leave out the diligence and physical anomalies involved with these men, however it is my believe that the Tampa staff had their hand in the players recoveries. Whether it was the doctors proscribing a workout regimen or the coaches thoughtfulness in keeping practices light, these are three men who really should have stopped playing football earlier.
Though there are long term concerns, Talib has a great chance of playing this season as his trial sits in 2012. Tanard Jackson showed up to 'camp' to let everyone know that he is committed to the team which will hopefully aid to his reinstatement.
Jeff Faine, like Winslow, is one of the highest paid in the league at his position. Unfortunately for Faine, he hasn't experienced the same success as K2 as a Buccaneer. Nevertheless, Jeremy Zuttah backed up the Center position adequately in Faines absence. After this year it would make sense to draft a center, but the roster is fine for this season.
Brian Price is young enough to miss a season rehabbing an injury to come back full force with a full career in front of him. Recent pictures of McCoy show how hard he's been hitting the gym, clearly not taking any time off. At the very least we know the first rounder is going to be back in full force and playing his natural position as new DE's will look to accrue playing time.
Last year Tampa had a weak schedule and almost every game was close. The team has added talent and has grown to the point where they will succeed similarly even with tougher opponents. Ten wins does not seem as such a lofty goal as it did this time last summer. So much hangs over the the football community with the lockout, and it's very easy to succumb to the negativity. This team is one with great potential. We should be looking at this season as a chance for young men to realize their potential, not fear that they will disappoint.