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Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose Arrelious Benn for the season

Arrelious Benn watches from the sideline on crutches after sustaining a left knee injury.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Arrelious Benn watches from the sideline on crutches after sustaining a left knee injury.

TAMPA — The Bucs need help to make the playoffs, all right.

Not just from the Bears and/or Redskins. They will require more contributions from young players to replace their growing list of injured starters.

The Bucs learned Monday that they lost rookie receiver Arrelious Benn for the remainder of the season — and most of the offseason as well.

Coach Raheem Morris said Benn tore a ligament in his left knee during the second quarter of the 38-15 win over the Seahawks when he was hit by cornerback Marcus Trufant after a 16-yard reception.

Benn was placed on injured reserve, the seventh starter lost in the past five weeks.

And the Bucs might be without Earnest Graham on Sunday at New Orleans. The starting fullback suffered a neck injury against Seattle and is considered "week to week."

The Bucs have lost eight starters to injured reserve, including four members of their 2010 draft class: Benn, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle Brian Price and safety Cody Grimm.

Despite the long odds and even longer injury list, receiver Micheal Spurlock said the NFL's youngest team can't take its opportunity to reach the playoffs with a win in Week 17 for granted.

"If we don't get in this year, then we have to build everything back up next year," Spurlock said. "It's like everything gets erased no matter what you did last year. You have to start back at the bottom and climb your way back up the hill. We are right there with a chance to get to the top. It would (stink) to not get to the top."

As much as a buzzkill as Benn's injury is for Morris, he said what makes it worse is that the second-round pick from Illinois can't spend the offseason working on his game.

"I'm more sour for the fact that I knew what Rejus was going to be able to do this offseason because of how he works," Morris said. "Now he's going to spend some time rehabbing and doing some things for his knee in order to come back to where he was. I'm more discouraged about the fact that I know he was going to be able to grow in the offseason in the offense and working with guys.

"There's just something about throwing with Josh Freeman and throwing with these guys every day. They got a unique chemistry from that forum starting last year, and there was going to be a new wave of guys that came in and would be able to join that with Mike Williams and Rejus and (Dezmon) Briscoe. I'm just more sad for him because I know how he likes to work."

Benn had progressed as a playmaker after catching just two passes or fewer in nine of his first 10 games. Two weeks ago, he had four catches for 122 yards in a win at Washington. He finished with 25 catches for 394 yards and two touchdowns.

Morris said Benn will be replaced by veteran Maurice Stovall, Preston Parker or Briscoe, who had two catches for 28 yards Sunday.

"It was really a crushing blow," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of Benn's injury. "He'd been playing so well as of late. He was getting better every week and was becoming a big part of our game-planning. It'll be a big loss for us in the offseason and not have a chance to spend a lot of time with him in the offseason and see him progress that way, too."

There's a slim chance Graham might play at New Orleans, Morris said. And he did not suffer a concussion.

Morris said Graham will be week to week — "Hopefully we've got week to week."

Rookie fullback Erik Lorig, a seventh-round pick from Stanford who began the season at defensive end, would replace Graham.

"I think the best-worst thing that we have is that a lot of guys don't understand that you might not get back," Spurlock said. "That's also a good thing because they are just having fun and there is no pressure. It's really a double-edged sword."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose Arrelious Benn for the season 12/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 2:17pm]
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