TAMPA — Bucs tight end Cameron Brate didn't disclose the specific injury that's been nagging him since the beginning of the season on Friday, but did say the ailment might require surgery in the offseason.
"That's definitely a possibility," Brate said. "I think we will cross that bridge when we get there."
Earlier this week, when asked to assess Brate's season — and his diminished production in the Bucs' offense — coach Dirk Koetter said that Brate has been dealing with an injury since the beginning of the year, saying that more will be known after the season is completed.
The injury is mysterious because Brate has never been on a practice injury report this season, and while no player is truly 100 percent through the physical rigors of a 16-week season, there had been no indication Brate was dealing with anything significantuntil Koetter mentioned it.
"I guess that's just the expectation with football," Brate said. "You don't want to be in a Wally Pipp situation where you're out and somebody else comes in and steals your job. There's been times when I haven't been feeling my best this year, for sure, but it was always part of the plan to just do what I can to play and practice every day and be ready for Sunday."
The wording in the NFL personnel injury report is somewhat innocuous. According to the policy, any injury that can impact a "key" player's performance in a game must be placed on a practice injury report, even if that player is a full participant in practice. The policy uses the example of a quarterback who injures his thumb in a game, receives treatment, returns to the game and is a full participant in the next week of practice as an instance in which the injury must be disclosed on an injury report.
Brate's 2016 season ended with him on injured reserve with a back injury, and he also dealt with a back issue at the end of last season, though he played through it. He was also hounded by a nagging hip injury through the second half of last season and was also listed with knee and ankle injuries on last season's injury reports.
After averaging 52 catches, 625 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions between 2016 and '17, enters Sunday's season finale against Atlanta with just 28 catches for 250 yards with six touchdowns. He hasn't posted more than four catches or 36 receiving yards in a game this season.
Brate played a season-high 57 snaps last week in Dallas, and he's received more snaps since tight end O.J. Howard's season-ending injury, but he averaged just 26 snaps a game through 10 games.
The Bucs signed Brate to a six-year, $40.8 million extension, including $18 million guaranteed, this past offseason.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.