With the Bucs dealing with a third player diagnosed with a MRSA staph infection, coach Greg Schiano said the team learned important information from an hourlong meeting with an infectious disease specialist before Friday's practice.
"As in anything, I think so much of the fear is the unknown," he said. "So as we became better educated, we all kind of understand the game plan of how to make sure this doesn't become a bigger problem."
The Bucs confirmed a third player has MRSA, joining starting guard Carl Nicks, who suffered a recurrence this week, and kicker Lawrence Tynes, who is out for the season after being diagnosed in August.
Multiple media outlets reported it is cornerback Johnthan Banks.
The Bucs did not confirm it. But he was the only player not previously on the injury report who missed practice, and he is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Eagles with an "illness."
"We've faced a lot of stuff these last couple of weeks," safety Dashon Goldson said, standing in front of Banks' locker. "We're trying to get back on the right page. There's nothing more important than playing football around here. We're excited about the challenge coming up this weekend."
As serious as MRSA can be, Nicks has not been ruled out.
"We'll move some guys around, if need be," Schiano said. "I don't know what the final outcome is going to be on all the situations. I'm not going to lock in anything in my mind right now other than have flexibility; other than that's why you train guys with the first-team guy, the second-team guy or some mix or match of both."
While Nicks could play Sunday, he also might require surgery to ensure no further MRSA infections in his left foot. Schiano said he was "disappointed" and "concerned" after learning Thursday that Nicks had a recurrence.
"It isn't easy what he's been through; to feel like it's behind you then all the sudden. It's a tricky deal," Schiano said. "Medicine, as much as we'd like it to be an exact science, it's not.
"Right now, I think it's, 'Hey, we've got to get this thing gone,' and whatever that's going to take, we're going to do. We're not going to go overboard, but whatever it's going to take, with the smartest people in the world who know how to fix this, that's what we're going to do and listen to them."
It seems counterintuitive that an infection that can be spread by physical contact could bring a team closer together. But Schiano said he's counting on the bonding aspect to positively impact unity.
"They're concerned for each other," 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."