Tonight, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Josh Freeman returns to the city where he was born to face the team he grew up rooting for. The game kicks off at 8 PM ET, and it will be the Bucs' first nationally televised game this season. The Bucs have two more nationally televised games during the regular season, on October 3 against the Indianapolis Colts, and on December 17 against the Dallas Cowboys.
While this is just a preseason game, a lot will be at stake for players on both sides of the ball. The teams have missed a lot of valuable practice time throughout the offseason, as the lockout prevented them from training at team facilities. When the lockout was lifted, new practice rules made it more difficult to bring players up to speed than in previous years. The preseason represents an opportunity to get the players acclimated with the system, and used to playing football again.
In addition, for many undrafted rookies performing in preseason will be the difference between being on an NFL roster come the regular season, or having to start a different career. Special teams play has always been a key to making it to the roster for undrafted rookies, but judging by yesterday's games that will be more difficult this season. Rules changes have pushed the kickoffs to the 35-yard line. As a result, there were only a few kick returns, as most kickoffs were kicked through the endzone. This should be the case for the Buccaneers as well, who brought in Michael Koenen for that express purpose.
Last year's preseason game against the Chiefs holds no fond memories for the Buccaneers. While the team did win, Josh Freeman broke his thumb on a lineman's helmet and was kept out for the rest of the preseason. The injury visibly bothered him and affected his throws during the first three weeks of the regular season.
The Bucs will also miss three players for this match: longsnapper Andrew Economos, tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Raymond Webber. Rookie Raymond Webber will likely be placed on injured reserve, after injuring his hamstring in practice. Andrew Economos is still rehabbing an injured achilles, but is expected to be ready for the regular season. Kellen Winslow will not play, reportedly as a part of his practice schedule to handle his chronic knee injuries.
In addition, it seems unlikely that Arrelious Benn, Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Erik Lorig and Luke Stocker will receiver much playing time. Benn is still recovering from an ACL injury and has not yet participated in full-contact practices. McCoy and Price have both been held out of several recent practices, as McCoy has a minor shoulder strain and Price is recovering from offseason hip surgery. Erik Lorig has also not shown up in practice recently with a tweaked hamstring. Luke Stocker has not practiced with the team the past week, as he injured his hip in practice the first day of training camp.