Jermaine Phillips knows about broken arms. For the second time in his career the Bucs safety will be sidelined, possibly for the rest of the season, with a forearm fracture.
This time, however, it's his left arm and not the right one that required surgery in 2004.
Coach Jon Gruden said that Phillips was evaluated Monday. The Bucs hope he can return in 4-6 weeks and have no plans to place him on injured reserve.
"He's had a heck of a season for us, and hopefully it's not serious, but we are concerned," Gruden said.
Phillips was hurt late in the first half of Sunday's 13-9 loss at Dallas and did not return.
Losing Phillips, 29, for an extended period will be significant. He is second on the team with 58 tackles, trailing only linebacker Barrett Ruud's 78. Phillips also has a 58-yard interception return against Carolina and a 38-yard fumble return for a touchdown against Green Bay.
"Jermaine is a tremendous hitter," defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said. "He's been tremendous two years in a row. He's playing really good and he's playing just as good this year as he did last year. He's kind of an unsung hero. When you think of all the safeties around the league, Jermaine Phillips is an elite safety in the NFL. I know good players. But you don't hear enough about these guys. He hustles and he hits and he gets turnovers and stuff like that."
Phillips will be replaced by Sabby Piscitelli, a second-round pick from Oregon State in 2007 who frequently subs at both safety spots. Piscitelli helped the Bucs limit the Cowboys to 102 net passing yards Sunday.
"Sabby Piscitelli would obviously have to step up," Gruden said. "There's the resources in our secondary to get that done. It's a big loss for us. (Phillips is) a heck of a player. He's a big-time player. If he is out, hopefully it's not for long. If he does miss some time, we'll go into that secondary room, shake it up a little bit and do our best without him."
Fortunately for the Bucs, there is some depth at safety. Will Allen started 24 games from 2005-06. Two years ago, he had 83 tackles.
"So we're going to miss (Phillips)," Kiffin said. "But that's why we drafted Sabby Piscitelli. We need some depth there. Sabby has got to come through for us. We still like Will Allen, so we think we've got four safeties and everyone's got to be ready to rotate now and back up more spots."
Injuries are becoming a factor as the Bucs limp toward the bye week following Sunday's game at Kansas City. While the Bucs welcomed back receiver Joey Galloway, who missed five games with a foot sprain, several other offensive standouts were limited Sunday. Warrick Dunn, who has a pinched nerve in his neck, had just one rushing attempt. Ike Hilliard, who suffered a concussion a week earlier against Seattle, also played.
"(Dunn) played (Sunday) but clearly wasn't himself," Gruden said. "I love that guy. What he and Ike Hilliard did (Sunday) for our team, our fans and this organization speaks volumes. Their presence means a lot. Their performance means a lot. Hopefully they have a good week of practice and hopefully they feel much better and can perform to the standard that they're capable of performing from a health standpoint. They will. Those are two good players. We need them down the stretch."