The majority of attention at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dual practice with the Miami Dolphins Wednesday was on offensive lineman Robert Hainsey because he was the one leaving the field on a cart.
And that normally is a terrible sign.
Hainsey’s departure was the source of much wringing of hands because coach Todd Bowles had no immediate update on his status after practice and because two weeks ago Tampa’s starting center Ryan Jensen, a Pro Bowl player, also left the field on a cart and that was bad news.
Jensen visited Wednesday’s practice and wore a brace that he’ll have on while he recovers much of the next eight weeks or so. He’s not expected to play until October at the earliest and even that timetable is uncertain.
The Bucs believed themselves capable of absorbing the Jensen blow with Hainsey as the replacement. So seeing him go down seemed a problem.
Breathe, Tampa Bay. It’s apparently going to be fine.
Hainsey left practice with leg cramps, a league source confirmed. He’ll be fine.
So all the panic was for nothing, amazingly, while a greater issue continues to linger for the Buccaneers.
The wide receiver group is limping around now. And this practice made it worse.
Russell Gage, who signed a $30 million contract in the offseason, injured himself in a one-on-one drill against a Miami cornerback. He went to the ground and when he got up he was nursing his left leg around the back of the knee area.
Gage left 25 minutes into the two-hour practice and didn’t return. Bowles didn’t have an update on the receiver, either.
But this is why this could be problematic: The Bucs are already without receiver Mike Evans, who is sitting out practices with a hamstring injury. And they don’t have Chris Goodwin back in practices yet.
The Evans injury isn’t serious. Evans has overcome training camp hamstring injuries in the past.
But Goodwin is trying to come back from an ACL and MCL injury and is only seven months on from his surgery. Yes, it was amazing to see him on the field Wednesday, wearing a heavy brace while he ran short routes that didn’t involve him cutting.
But he didn’t look anywhere near as fluid as, well, a healthy Chris Goodwin. He’s not ready and might not be fully himself even through a significant part of the season.
When Tom Brady last spoke to reporters he said gaining chemistry with Gage was a daily mission that was “one step forward, two steps back” and needed multiple repetitions and time to build.
An injury removing Gage from that process would mean Brady doesn’t have a healthy Goodwin and his chemistry with Gage, who was signed as insurance for Goodwin’s return, will take a while longer to find.
And that’s the best case scenario if Gage isn’t seriously hurt.
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