TAMPA — The Bucs have lost DE Jacquies Smith to a season-ending knee injury, placing him on injured reserve Monday after he was injured in punt coverage in Sunday's win against the Falcons.
Smith tore his right ACL, the Bucs announced, their second defensive end lost to a season-ending injury (George Johnson fractured a hip in August). No corresponding move was announced, but the Bucs could reach out to Kourtnei Brown, who was among the team's final cuts.
"Appreciate all the support," Smith wrote on Twitter.com on Monday night. "If u know me u know Ima attack this head on and be back better than ever."
Smith, who has 131/2 sacks over the past two seasons, didn't start but was among the team's most effective pass-rushers. He works well in the nickel defense, often on likely passing downs where the Bucs aren't as concerned about guarding against run plays. Coach Dirk Koetter said the injury was "very unfortunate" and something his team will have to overcome.
"He's a guy that's a starter in our nickel package, a key contributor," Koetter said. "It's going to be tough. We've got to pick up the slack in other areas. Some guys have to play more snaps than they might have played before. We're going to be tested on our depth. We've been saying that we thought we had depth at defensive line and this is going to test us right off the back."
With Smith out, the Bucs will lean more on second-year pro Howard Jones, who had five sacks in a similar role last season, and rookie Channing Ward, who was inactive for Sunday's opener.
WHO'S SLOW? Bucs QB Jameis Winston ended up with a dominating day, throwing for four touchdown passes, but he started 2-of-6 for 11 yards and an interception, with Atlanta taking a 10-3 lead.
Koetter said he doesn't consider that a slow start, with a field goal on the opening drive and two touchdowns in the first half.
"Everyone's talking about how bad of a start we got," Koetter said. "Here's how the game started: We deferred. Our defense held them. They hit a bad punt, we got right in field-goal range. We had a 6-yard loss on a running play, so it's second and 16. Jameis overthrew a wheel route … then he overthrew Mike (Evans) on the pump. Then we kicked a field goal.
"For the next 15 weeks, if that happened and we got up 3-0, is that a fast start or a slow start? That's an okay start. It might not be lightning, but it's not horrible."
THIS AND THAT: Rookie TE Alan Cross, who made the initial 53-man roster but was waived Saturday as the Bucs addressed injuries at other positions, was signed to the practice squad Monday after he cleared waivers. … Koetter said he will use WR Cecil Shorts on kickoff returns again Sunday against Arizona. Shorts was limited to touchbacks in the opener.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.