Friday, April 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Rookie Johnthan Banks latest Buccaneers player diagnosed with MRSA

TAMPA — Bucs rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks was worried about a sore on his body Thursday.

As he had been instructed, he brought it to the attention of team doctors. A culture was taken and revealed what everyone likely feared: MRSA, the severe staph infection resistant to most antibiotics that continues to infect members of the Buccaneers.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after the team announced guard Carl Nicks had a recurrence of the staph infection in his left foot, general manager Mark Dominik neither confirmed nor denied multiple media reports that Banks was the third Buc to contract MRSA over the past two months.

But Banks was the only player absent from practice Friday who previously had not been on the injury report. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Eagles with an "illness."

"This player did a great job of alerting us," Dominik said.

But the latest MRSA case called into question if One Buc Place is a safe work environment and had the NFL players' union gathering facts to make sure conditions are safe for Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium.

In an effort to allay fears of players, coaches and employees, the Bucs flew in Dr. Deverick Anderson, co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network.

"We're here to, obviously, report we did have a third case of MRSA within this organization," Dominik said in a joint news conference Friday with Anderson.

Two Bucs contracted MRSA in August. Kicker Lawrence Tynes was told after seeking a second opinion on an ingrown toenail from a New York hospital. He is still receiving antibiotics via an intravenous line. Nicks missed all of the preseason and the first two regular-season games.

Nicks was told Thursday his infection had recurred. Anderson said in cases such as Nicks', surgery is often a necessity.

"The reality is oftentimes when MRSA gets into the bone, then therapy alone is not enough to actually cure it," he said. "So typically in that scenario … that indicates you may require a surgical procedure to definitively remove that infection."

Although he has not examined Tynes, Anderson said Tynes and Nicks did not spread the infection to each other. But Anderson said he did not have enough information to determine if Banks' infection is similar to the strain contracted by Tynes and Nicks.

MRSA can spread through barely noticeable skin openings or shared equipment or towels that come into contact with skin.

Last week, the players union filed a grievance against the Bucs on behalf of Tynes, who was placed on the nonfootball injury list instead of injured reserve. While Tynes is being paid his salary, he is not receiving benefits such as matching 401(k) contributions nor accruing service time toward a pension.

The grievance addresses "significant concerns about the manner in which that player and perhaps other players' safety was handled by the team," union executive director DeMaurice Smith said last week.

It alleges Tynes was not cultured for MRSA by the team, causing a delay in treatment of more than two weeks. Nicks was placed on a battery of antibiotics immediately.

"This underscores the need for a leaguewide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol," Smith said. "It also calls for improved accountability measures on health and safety issues by the NFL over the clubs."

Bucs players said Friday's question-and-answer session with Anderson was helpful.

"Of course, something so serious like this, you're scared and concerned," cornerback Leonard Johnson said. "But we had one of the top doctors come in and talk with us. That put a lot of guys' minds at ease, especially mine."

Despite having the only three known players diagnosed with MRSA among 32 NFL teams, Anderson said Bucs players were at no more risk than other teams.

"Based on my observations, I didn't think there was anything very high risk," Anderson said. "I think that football in and of itself, there's a known risk factor for MRSA and MRSA infection in general. So the fact that a case or even two and now three cases occurred does not necessarily mean in and of itself that this is at any higher risk than any other football location in the country.

"I can say I believe that it is a safe environment for players and staff."

Asked why the Bucs are the only team with three MRSA cases, Anderson said: "I don't know."

Smith said the union is working with the NFL to assess the situation. Most likely, Sunday's game will be played. Anderson said he doesn't believe there is any additional danger to players.

"We have been involved in an ongoing review of the MRSA incidents in Tampa Bay initiated by the concerns we had about the manner in which team officials responded to these cases," Smith said in a statement Friday.

"We advised the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that an outside expert should be brought in to assess the situation and we are pleased with their decision to take that recommendation. We have also been in regular contact with the player representatives from Tampa Bay. We will reach out to the Philadelphia Eagles player representatives today and provide them with our best medical guidance and regular updates from the outside experts."

Banks, a second-round pick from Mississippi State, has seen playing time when opponents use three receivers. Nicks, a Pro Bowl guard, could be looking at missing more games or possibly the rest of the season if surgery is required. Tynes likely is out for the season.

"They're concerned for each other," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "Out of anything, good can come. This team's coming together, and we're going to stick behind our guys that are sick, stick together for each other.

"Adversity reveals character, and I think some good character is coming out of this."

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Comments
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Bucs have a tough start to their schedule

The NFL did the Bucs no favors with their 2018 schedule, Rick Stroud says, making them open at New Orleans, followed by home games against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Plus, linebacker Kendall Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle, p...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

Here’s the Bucs’ full 2018 schedule

TAMPA — How good can the Bucs be in 2018? Fans will get a good sense in the first three weeks, as Tampa Bay opens the year with three of its toughest games, all against reigning division champions. The Bucs open 2018 in New Orleans on Sept. 9 ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith fractured ankle in car accident

TAMPA – Bucs linebacker Kendell Beckwith had surgery to repair a broken ankle he suffered in a car accident in Louisiana last week, putting his status for the start of the season in question.Beckwith was passenger in car driven by former L...
Published: 04/19/18
Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

Bucs’ home schedule leaked: Hosting Eagles in Week 2

The 2018 NFL schedule won't be released until 8 p.m. tonight, but the Bucs' eight home games were posted early — and presumably accidentally — on the team's site, showing what would be a daunting start to the upcoming season.Multiple outl...
Published: 04/19/18
Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick a first-round fit for the Bucs?

Minkah FitzpatrickPosition: SafetyCollege: AlabamaHeight/Weight: 6-1, 201Draft projection: First roundWhy Fitzpatrick makes sense for the BucsOne of the Bucs' biggest needs is to improve their secondary. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker, arguably the best ...
Published: 04/17/18
Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

Jameis Winston set to make $21 million in 2019 as Bucs pick up his option

TAMPA — Jameis Winston is headed for a big pay day after this season, whether he gets a contract extension or not.The Bucs on Tuesday picked up the fifth-year option on Winston's rookie contract worth $20.9 million for 2019. The deal is not gua...
Published: 04/17/18
Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

Get to know potential Bucs NFL draft target Vita Vea of Washington

As next week's NFL draft nears, Bucs fans might want to learn a little more about a potential target at No. 7: Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.The 6-foot-4, 347-pound monster moves very well for someone his size and could be an intriguing option...
Published: 04/17/18
DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were in perfect harmony on Day 1

TAMPA — DeSean Jackson and Jameis Winston were finally on the same page.For the first day of the offseason workout program, anyway.Jackson, 31, is coming off one of the worst seasons of his 10-year career with 50 catches for only 668 yards and ...
Published: 04/16/18
Jameis Winston says he has still not been interviewed in NFL probe

Jameis Winston says he has still not been interviewed in NFL probe

TAMPA — Jameis Winston was excited to be back with his teammates at One Buc Place Monday beginning the first phase of  the off-season workout program."It means everything, because it's back to football," Winston said. "It's back to that te...
Published: 04/16/18
Bucs’ Ali Marpet ready for transition to left guard

Bucs’ Ali Marpet ready for transition to left guard

Ali Marpet is on the move again, but says not to worry about his transition to left guard — his fourth offensive line position in five years — for the 2018 season."Moving from right to left is less of a transition from guard to center," M...
Published: 04/16/18