Bucs brace for life after Clayborn
Though injured Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn wasn't in the lockerroom Monday morning, he was on the minds of several of his teammates, who are bracing for the potential of having to play without him for a lengthy period.
Clayborn, one of the team's most consistent defensive players, left Sunday's game with a potentially serious right knee injury, with some fearing it could be season-ending. And Tampa Bay knows what it's going to have to replace.
"Adrian was always our energy," DT Gerald McCoy said.
Priding themselves on a "next-man-up" mentality, the Bucs will likely lean on DE George Johnson and DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who came in for Clayborn when he got hurt in the fourth quarter.
"A.C. brought a style to this defensive line that nobody could bring," Johnson said. "Nobody can really match his intensity. The only thing we can try to do is replicate what he does best."
Johnson, a second-year pro out of Rutgers, has spent most of the past two seasons on the practice squad, playing in four games last year. Te'o-Nesheim, the Eagles third-round pick in 2010, played one game for Tampa Bay last year after signing as a free agent.
"Daniel is a very impressive player, a third-round pick that just needed the opportunity," DE Michael Bennett. "Every time he gets that opportunity, he makes a couple plays - that's what we need. George is a guy who really works hard, wants to get a chance, when he gets his chance I believe he'll capitalize on his opportunity. He's a guy who really studies his film, and knows how to play at this level."
The Bucs defense had a big bounce-back effort against the Cowboys, forcing two fumbles by QB Tony Romo, with Bennett and McCoy each picking up two sacks.
McCoy pointed out that the line has dealt with injuries a lot the past two years - including to himself - and others have stepped up. That includes Bennett, who has raised his level of play with DE Da'Quan Bowers out.
"You hate to lose your No. 1 guy," McCoy said. "But we are going to pray for him, wish him all the best. But we've still got 13 more to play... "
Said DT Roy Miller: "It's rough, because he's one of those guys that comes here everyday and does everything he's asked to do. We joke around and call him, 'Company man," but that's the attitude he brings. And you know it hurts him not to be out there. To see somebody like that go through that type of pain, it does something to you."
-- JOE SMITH