TAMPA — The Bucs' injury problems this season have been concentrated at two positions, running back and defensive end, and they continued Thursday as RB Antone Smith and DE Howard Jones sustained season-ending knee injuries in a loss to the Falcons, coach Dirk Koetter said Friday.
Both were on crutches in the locker room after the game.
The Bucs had already exhausted their depth at both positions and will have to add players over the weekend as they prepare for the Nov. 13 home game against the Bears.
Smith, a former FSU standout who rushed five times for 25 yards and caught three passes for 27 yards Thursday, is the fourth running back to go down with an injury. Doug Martin has been out since Week 2 with a hamstring injury. Charles Sims was put on injured reserve after injuring a knee in Week 4, and Jacquizz Rodgers hurt a foot in Week 8. Russell Hansbrough could be promoted from the practice squad, or the team could seek a more experienced replacement elsewhere.
Jones, who had five sacks last season, hadn't found the same success as a backup pass-rusher, with just one tackle on defense and two on special teams this season. The team already had George Johnson (hip) and Jacquies Smith (knee) on injured reserve. Robert Ayers missed four games with an ankle injury.
Koetter also said that WR Mike Evans and G Kevin Pamphile were placed in the concussion protocol after the game but that Evans had made enough progress that Koetter expected him to practice Monday when the team gets back to work.
Koetter said he didn't expect other injuries — QB Jameis Winston's knee, C Joe Hawley's knee and LB Kwon Alexander's shoulder — to affect their availability for the Bears game.
WRONG CALL: Koetter said his decision to decline a 15-yard penalty on the Falcons that allowed them to hit a 41-yard field goal on the next play should not suggest that he didn't have confidence in his defense.
"If I had that to do over again, we should have taken that penalty, and that's on me," he said. "I don't want anyone to read in that I don't have confidence in the defense or anything like that. That was just a bad decision by me."
The penalty in the second quarter would have backed the Falcons up to third and 22 at the Bucs 38-yard line. Koetter declined the penalty, saying after the game that he believed the Falcons were still within the limits of K Matt Bryant's field-goal range either way.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.