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PHILLIPS DEALS WITH ANOTHER BROKEN BONE

The injuries are beginning to mount.

The Bucs entered Sunday's game with two starters out (WR Antonio Bryant and C Jeff Faine) and now they've lost another, likely for a long period.

S Jermaine Phillips was being evaluated Monday after breaking his left thumb at Buffalo. It's the latest in a long, frustrating series of broken bones for Phillips, who has had multiple surgeries on his arms and wrists.

Last season, Phillips broke his forearm in midseason, then returned and broke the opposite arm several weeks later. He also had broken arms in 2004 and 2005. His injury history likely impacted his marketability as a free agent in the offseason, when he drew little interest and returned on a one-year deal.

Though a broken thumb isn't necessarily season ending, Phillips' situation is not typical.

"Jermaine's broken his arms seven times and it's a little different deal," coach Raheem Morris said. 'We have to see the doctors. It's a broken thumb but I don't know to what extent it is."

The expected loss of Phillips is ill-timed. The team is without two-year starter Tanard Jackson, who has two games remaining on a league suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy.

Veteran backup Will Allen is next in line at safety, with recent acquisition Steve Cargile the only backup. A move is likely to bolster the secondary depth.

Other injured players being monitored include WR Maurice Stovall (knee) and CB Elbert Mack (shoulder). It's not known whether either injury was serious.

Faine (triceps) has been ruled out for Sunday's home game against the Giants, and Bryant (knee) remains a question. Bryant said Monday he is dealing with a "bone bruise," an aftereffect of August knee surgery.

"It's all about taking hits on it or the bone colliding with the other bone," he said. "It's just a matter of letting it heal and taking away that (pain)."

NOT THEIR STYLE: The offense has been taken out of its game plan two weeks in a row after the Bucs fell behind.

Just like in the opener against Dallas, Tampa Bay on Sunday was forced to climb out of a hole, rendering its plans to establish the run unfeasible.

Against Dallas, QB Byron Leftwich attempted 41 passes. He threw 50 against Buffalo, with the Bucs rushing 19 times.

"When you're the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that's not how we want to play football," Morris said. "We don't want to throw the ball around 50 times. To only have 19 rushes is not our winning formula. There's no secret behind that. But we forced ourselves into a situation where we had to."

Tampa Bay dug an early 17-0 hole against the Bills. Against the Cowboys the Bucs didn't fall well behind until later. That allowed the Bucs to play their style in the first half, and they rushed with great success.

BRIGHT SPOTS: The Bucs reported several notable efforts against Buffalo. MLB Barrett Ruud registered 20 tackles and OLB Geno Hayes had 16. Both were career highs. S Sabby Piscitelli, who had an interception and fumble recovery, had a career-best nine tackles.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

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