TAMPA — The Bucs' worst fears were confirmed Monday. DE Adrian Clayborn will have season-ending right knee surgery, coach Greg Schiano said.
The team thought Clayborn might have been seriously injured when he went down in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Cowboys, then left the locker room with a brace on from thigh to ankle. Clayborn tore a ligament, potentially multiple ones, Schiano said.
"Certainly it's unfortunate for him and the team," Schiano said. "I don't know exactly what (the injury) is. It's one of those three-letter deals."
Clayborn, who led the team with 7.5 sacks last season, was placed on injured reserve. He is the second starting defensive end to sustain a serious injury this year. Second-year pro Da'Quan Bowers tore an Achilles in the offseason; he is eligible to come off the reserve physically-unable-to-perform list after Week 6.
In the meantime, Schiano said, the Bucs will look at options for replacing Clayborn. They could include using more three-man fronts with LB Dekoda Watson or backup DEs George Johnson and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim.
"We'll look at everything," Schiano said. "We'll look internally. We'll look outside if anything is better. We'll look at schematically. Maybe we'll have to play some more three-down fronts and do some different things to stretch the personnel a little bit. Nothing is out of the realm.
"Look, that's what you do. You adapt, and that's what we'll do."
The Bucs will even consider moving left DE Michael Bennett to the right, he said.
"Anything is fair game right now. I don't know where it will end up," Schiano said. "We're spending a fair amount of time talking about it, and we'll make what we think is the best decision."
BOWERS BACK? The Bucs could get help from Bowers, who was drafted in 2011 with Clayborn.
Bowers has been rehabilitating after surgery and appears to be cautiously optimistic about his progress. Though Bowers said he still has "four weeks to go," he said whether he returns to practice when eligible is up to Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik.
"It's been a long process, since May. It gets overwhelming at times," Bowers said. "You've got to take it day by day. I know what my purpose is, I've got to work hard to get back where I was last year. It's a tough injury to come back from. The staff here has been doing everything in their power to make sure I have a healthy comeback."
TACKLE TALKS: DT Gerald McCoy said one reason he appreciates his coaches so much is that their doors are always open.
And so are their minds.
With the defensive line not having much success with all the stunts and twists called in a Week 2 loss to the Giants, McCoy met with coaches last week to request if they could have a more straight-up style against the Cowboys.
The linemen were permitted to do just that, and they were a lot more disruptive against Dallas, racking up four sacks and forcing QB Tony Romo to fumble twice.
Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said last week they called too many stunts in an attempt to confuse the Giants.
"We're allowed to go up there and make requests or talk to them about things," McCoy said of the coaches. "And me, being a captain and defensive lineman, I just went to Coach and made a few requests, sat down and talked about a few things. We discussed what we discussed, and he set up a game plan, and it worked for us."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.