TAMPA — Bucs S Chris Conte played Monday night against the Steelers with a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his knee, according to an espn.com report. Conte "gutted it out and honestly shouldn't have played," the report said.
Conte aggravated the knee injury in the 30-27 loss to the Steelers and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Coach Dirk Koetter said he was unaware of the specifics of Conte's injury but certain team doctors cleared the safety to play in the game.
"A guy is either cleared to play or he's not," Koetter said. "And if he's cleared to play, he's cleared to play. It's just that simple. I mean, I don't really know to what extent — Chris did have a sore knee, in my coach's brain — what exactly the medical report on that was. And Chris worked hard to get back. I'm not exactly sure. Probably only God above can tell us what caused it in the end. I don't know the answer to that.
"It's unfortunate. Injuries are an unfortunate part. We hate to lose Chris. I mean, Chris is playing good football for us, and it's unfortunate that we lost him. I mean, if I could predict how injuries occur, then I would be living in Las Vegas instead of Tampa."
Koetter said he wasn't sure which play Conte was injured on. The eighth-year player was planted by a stiff arm from Steelers TE Vance McDonald on his way to a 75-yard touchdown reception.
Koetter said depending on how Conte recovers from the injury, he might be one of two players eligible to return from the injured reserve list.
Secondary gets younger
The Bucs invested heavily in upgrading their secondary in the draft, selecting North Carolina CB M.J. Stewart and Auburn CB Carlton Davis in the second round and Pittsburgh S Jordan Whitehead in the fourth round.
With CB Vernon Hargreaves and S Conte landing on injured reserve in the first three weeks, those young players will have to play huge roles beginning Sunday at Chicago.
"I think all three of those young men are really good football players,'' defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "Of course, Carlton has probably got the most snaps of the three guys. He's a big, strong corner that plays well when he's close to the line of scrimmage than when he's off. I think that we're seeing that as the games start getting put into the books. M.J. has some flexibility in terms of where he can play. He's lined up and played corner, nickel and safety for us. He's a guy that's got flexibility and then we're just getting these young guys — as quickly as we can — up to speed. Every day is a new day for those guys, but we've been very pleased with how they've worked for us thus far. They've been battle-tested, that's for sure. You face two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and a guy that was MVP of the Super Bowl, so they haven't had any slack that's for sure."
Whitehead could be pressed into the lineup along with S Isaiah Johnson against Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.
"He doesn't have the experience of (Conte), that's the first thing,'' Smith said of Whitehead. "We've got to get him up to speed as quickly as possible. He is a heat-seeking missile in terms of going after the ball. That's one of the things he does very well. If you had to say, 'Is he a traditional free safety or strong safety?', you would tend to say he is more of a strong safety. He's a guy that can really track the ball in the run game and when he gets to you, he's going to wallop you with a good punch.''
DT Breau Allen (foot), who missed Monday's game, did not practice Wednesday. DT Gerald McCoy (biceps), T Demar Dotson (knee), DT Vita Vea (calf) and CB Marcus Williams (hamstring) were limited. S Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) and S Isaiah Johnson (shoulder) had full participation.