The Bucs' injury situation went from bad to worse Sunday.
As the Bucs' daylong flight returned to Tampa Bay from London on Monday afternoon, running back Earnest Graham was coming to grips with the likelihood that his season is over. Graham, the veteran backup who became the starter in LeGarrette Blount's absence during the past two games, suffered a torn Achilles' tendon in the loss to the Bears and almost certainly will be placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
The injury requires surgery and extensive rehab, a tall order for a 31-year-old running back.
The Bucs will be looking to address the position during this much-needed bye week, with Kregg Lumpkin — who struggled in relief of Graham — the only healthy back on the active roster. On Sunday, Lumpkin gained 15 yards on eight carries, 1.9 yards per carry, and the Bucs rushed for a season-low 30 yards.
Tampa Bay considered promoting former Oklahoma running back Mossis Madu from the practice squad last week but decided to enter the Bears game with just two tailbacks. Madu or former Northern Illinois star Chad Spann, also on the practice squad, become more likely options this week. That is, unless the Bucs consider free agent options. It's also possible the Bucs will get Blount back for the next game, at New Orleans on Nov. 6.
The loss of Graham is particularly problematic on third down. Graham beat out Lumpkin in the preseason to win the job of third-down back, which requires sure hands and pass-blocking ability. Lumpkin now will be tested in those areas as he likely will assume the third-down role.
There are other new injuries to sort out, too, as several key players were scheduled to undergo further examination after returning home.
They include safety Tanard Jackson (hamstring), guard/center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) and linebacker Mason Foster (ankle).
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle), who has missed the past two games, is expected to return against the Saints. The Bucs remain hopeful starting center Jeff Faine (biceps) can return then, as well.