Banks third Bucs player diagnosed with MRSA
Rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks was worried about a sore on his body Thursday, and as he had been instructed, brought it to the attention of team doctors. A culture was taken and revealed what everyone likely feared the most: MRSA, the severe staphylococcus resistant to antibiotics that continues to infect Tampa Bay Buccaneers players at an alarming rate.
On Friday, less than 24 hours after the team announced guard Carl Nicks had a recurrence of the staph infection in his left foot, general manager Mark Dominik would neither confirm nor deny multiple media reports that Banks had contracted the infection. However, Banks was the only player absent from practice Thursday who previously had not been on the injury report. On Friday he was listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles with an illness.
"This player did a great job of alerting us.'' Dominik said.
But the latest MRSA case called into question whether One Buc Place is a safe work environment and had the NFL player's union gathering facts to make sure it is safe for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles to be played.
"We have been involved in an ongoing review of the MRSA incidents in Tampa Bay initiated by the concerns we had about the manner in which team officials responded to these cases,'' NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement Friday.
"We advised the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that an outside expert should be brought in to assess the situation and we are pleased with their decision to take that recommendation. We have also been in regular contact with the player representatives from Tampa Bay. We will reach out to the Philadelphia Eagles player representatives today and provide them with our best medical guidance and regular updates from the outside experts.''
In an effort to allay fears of players, coaches and employees, the Bucs flew down Dr. Deverick Anderson, co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network, to discuss the MRSA outbreak.
"We're here today to obviously report we did have a third case of MRSA within this organization,'' Dominik said in a joint news conference Friday with Anderson.
The Bucs had two players disagnosed with MRSA in Aug: Place-kicker Lawrence Tynes, who sought a second-opinion and discovered the infection while being treated for an in-grown toenail; and Nicks, the Saints free agent guard who missed the first two games of the season before doctors declared him "MRSA free,'' Sept. 12.
On Thursday, Nicks was informed that his infection had recurred. Anderson said in cases like the one aflicting Nicks, surgery is often a neccessity.
"The reality is oftentimes when MRSA gets into the bone then therapy alone is not enough to actually cure it, so typically in that scenario...that indicates you may require a surgical procedure to definitively remove that infection,'' Anderson said.
Although he has never examined Tynes, Anderson said he and Nicks did not spread the infection to each other.
"We can definitively say that the first two cases were really not related to each other," Anderson said. However, Anderson said he did not have enough information to determine if Banks' MRSA was similar to the strain contracted by Tynes or Nicks.
The NFLPA filed a grievance against the Bucs and addresses "significant concerns" about the manner in which that player and perhaps other players' safety was handled by the team," Smith said last week.
The grievance claims that Tynes was not cultured for MRSA by the team, causing a delay of more than two weeks for treatment to begin. Nicks was placed on a battery of antibiotics immediately.
"This underscores the need for a League-wide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol,'' Smith said. "It also calls for improved accountability measures on health and safety issues by the NFL over the clubs.''
Bucs players said their more than one hour question-and-answer session with Anderson was helpful.
"Of course, something so serious like this, you're scared and concerned, but we had one of the top doctors come in and talk with us ... that put a lot of guys' minds at ease, especially mine," said cornerback Leonard Johnson.
Despite having the only three known players diagnosed with MRSA among 32 teams, Anderson said Bucs players were at no more risk than any teams in the NFL.
"Based on my observations I didn't think there was anything very high risk,'' Anderson said. "I think that football in an of itself, there's a known risk factor for MRSA and MRSA infection in general. So the fact that a case or even two and now three cases occurred does not necessarily mean in and of itself that this is at any higher risk than any other football location in the country.
"I can say I believe that it is a safe environment for players and staff...the fact that a case or even two and now three cases occurred does not necessarily mean in and of itself that this is at any higher risk than any other football location in the country.''
Asked why the Bucs are the only NFL team with three MRSA cases, Anderson said, "I don't know. I don't know why we've got three cases in this location and not in others.''