TAMPA — Sammie Stroughter's rookie season is over thanks to a broken right foot suffered in Sunday's win over the Seahawks.
The Bucs put the receiver/kick returner on injured reserve.
It's a significant blow to the Bucs (2-12) considering Pro Bowl returner Clifton Smith went on IR after a second concussion and Stroughter's impact on offense as the third wide receiver.
Stroughter, 23, had been one of the Bucs' biggest bright spots this season, bursting on the scene as a seventh-round pick out of Oregon State and turning into, as coach Raheem Morris said, "one of our better football players."
Stroughter had 31 catches for 334 yards and averaged 29.5 yards on 11 kickoff returns, including a 97-yard touchdown against Carolina. Morris said he didn't know an estimate on Stroughter's recovery time.
"What Sammie has done this year has been pretty impressive," Morris said. "Not only did he come here as a seventh-round draft pick and make the team, which is a credit in itself, he's been the third receiver in our Zebra package and has done some punt and kick returns. He gave us maximum effort all year and (is) one of the better players on our football team."
Stroughter, a 5-foot-10, 189-pound native of Sacramento, Calif., was coming off one of his best games Sunday before getting injured in the second half. He had a season-high 33-yard punt return to help set up a touchdown in the third quarter and tallied a career-high four catches for 46 yards.
In Stroughter's absence, Yamon Figurs could fill in on kick returns (with Morris saying running back Cadillac Williams is an option). As for receiver, Brian Clark is one of a few who could play more.
Mario Urrutia was promoted from the practice squad to take Stroughter's roster spot.
While Stroughter made a significant impression and has the organization excited about the future, other players will undoubtedly be evaluated in the final two games.
Morris acknowledged that there are "always guys on the bubble, always coaches that are on the bubble," and that actions will speak louder than words.
"How you respond to being on the bubble is what defines you as a man, and what defines you as a coach, what defines you as a player," Morris said. "And those defining roles will come out in these last two weeks. You always hear the theme of SportsCenter right now, the teams that 'are not playing for anything.' What are they playing for? This is what were doing: We're playing for us; it's about us. Everything else is gray matter."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.