TAMPA — A day after falling to 0-6 on the season, coach Greg Schiano had a sobering, fatalistic message that could shiver the timbers of any Bucs fan.
"Things could be a lot worse and I don't mean record-wise," Schiano said. "I mean in life. You've just got to go. You take the next task at hand and you go with it and that's what we'll do."
Worse arrived Monday morning when the Bucs learned that Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder and is out indefinitely.
Martin was injured attempting to make a catch near the goal line early in the third quarter of the Bucs' 31-23 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. The injury could be season-ending, but the team will wait several weeks before determining that in hopes that its rushing leader will respond to treatment and play again this year.
In addition, safety Dashon Goldson, who left Sunday's game with a knee injury, was limited in practice and is day to day heading into Thursday night's nationally televised game against the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
It will be impossible to adequately replace Martin. He led all rookies in rushing last year with 1,454 and 11 rushing touchdowns. In six games this season, he has rushed for 456 yards and one touchdown.
Rookie running back Mike James and Brian Leonard will split rushing duties Thursday. The Bucs also claimed running back Bobby Rainey off waivers from the Browns on Monday and released receiver Skye Dawson.
"There's no doubt Doug's a great running back, a Pro Bowl running back and there's definitely going to be pressure even trying to fill half his shoes," James said. "I'm just trying to do what I can to help the team win a game."
Schiano says he likes what he has seen of James, who has rushed 17 times for 57 yards this season.
"He's gotten more touches each game and obviously this one by necessity," Schiano said. "But I think Mike has really improved as a running back from the beginning stages of training camp and made improvement steadily. When he's had his opportunities, he's done good things.
"He's got really good one-cut ability as far as things flash in front of his face whether be backfield or at the line of scrimmage. He's got quick feet and can make that first guy miss, which keeps you out of negative plays, and he seems to fall forward."
With Goldson's status for Thursday's game unknown, the Bucs also are thin at safety. Backup Keith Tandy suffered a concussion in Sunday's game and did not practice Monday. Starting strong safety Mark Barron had limited participation in practice with a hip injury. The Bucs were forced to finish the game with Kelcie McCray, who was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins two weeks ago.
Schiano admitted Monday that the losing — six straight and 11 of 12 — is taking its toll. But he hasn't seen a lack of effort by players. In fact, he says in some cases the players are trying too hard.
"I think I'd be dishonest if I didn't say it (doesn't wear) on everybody, but we've got a great group of guys in that locker room," Schiano said. "They're going out and they're playing good football, at times — winning football, at times. I think they feel — and I know I feel — like we're doing a lot of things, ourselves, to keep us from winning.
"When I say, 'It could be worse' — I want to be clear on this, because I don't take lightly at 0-6. I've never been 0-6. We do our best and we're trying our hardest and our guys are working their tails off. So I've found that when you have good people and they work hard and they work smart, it'll turn, and that's what I believe.
"Now, the challenge mounts, right? I said earlier that sometimes I feel like maybe we're trying too hard and when you're 0-6, it's hard not to keep trying harder and harder because you don't want to be 0-7. So we've just got to go out and play."