The Buccaneers managed to make it all the way through the season without any significant issues with COVID-19. Now, on the cusp of their first playoff appearance in thirteen years, they’ve lost some significant players. Devin White, Shaquil Barrett, and Steve McLendon have all been placed on the COVID-19 Reserve/Injured list and will be out against the Falcons. To make matters worse, Tom Pelissaro is reporting that White tested positive, putting his availability for the wild card round in serious jeopardy;
#Bucs LB Devin White tested positive for COVID-19, while teammate Shaq Barrett landed on the COVID list as a close contact, sources tell me and @RapSheet.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 1, 2021
Both are out for Sunday, but Barrett would be on track to return for the wild-card round if he keeps testing negative.
Losing White for a playoff game - regardless of the opponent - is a huge blow to what the Buccaneers do defensively. He’s been their best defensive player all season and was on the verge of having a double-digit sack season.
Barrett was also getting close and will miss the chance to notch back-to-back double-digit sack seasons but is on track to play since he is being isolated as a close contact and not a negative test.
In response of the players being moved to the COVID reserve/Injury list, the Buccaneers have signed Jack Cichy off the Patriots’ practice squad to help fill the void moving forward.
As for the rest of the team, the Bucs will be without Jeremiah Ledbetter this weekend who is dealing with a calf injury and cornerback Carlton Davis is doubtful with a groin injury.
For the Falcons, they will once again be without wide receiver Julio Jones and cornerback Darqueze Dennard against the Bucs while also being without wide receiver Brandon Powell.
The Bucs and Falcons square off on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET in the final regular season game of the year as the Bucs attempt to lock up the fifth seed and a date with the NFC East division champion in the first round while Falcons’ head coach Raheem Morris tries to end the season on a high note in hopes that it helps his chances to become the Falcons’ permanent head coach.