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Gabbert injury leaves Bucs scrambling for quarterback help

Tampa Bay signed Vincent Testaverde to play Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Bucs quarterback Blaine Gabbert is helped from the field after injuring his shoulder against the Cleveland Browns in Friday's preseason game at Raymond James Stadium. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 24
Updated Aug. 25

TAMPA — Bucs backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s left (non-throwing) shoulder injury isn’t as serious as expected, coach Bruce Arians said Saturday, but in the short term, Gabbert’s absence sent the Bucs scrambling to find healthy quarterbacks to get through Thursday’s preseason finale in Dallas.

Gabbert dislocated the shoulder in the second quarter of Friday’s 13-12 win over the Browns at Raymond James Stadium. He didn’t have any range of motion in the joint after the game and left the stadium with the arm in a sling.

It didn’t appear that surgery would be needed for Gabbert, brought in during the offseason to be a veteran backup to Jameis Winston who is familiar with Arians’ system after playing for him in Arizona. Recovery time for the injury is typically four to six weeks once a player regains full range of motion and strength, but Arians was optimistic Gabbert wouldn’t miss much time.

MORE BUCS: Jameis Winston needs to be better, not battered

“Blaine’s injury is not as serious as it looks, so we’ll see how that goes,” Arians said.

The Bucs have until next Saturday to truly assess Gabbert’s injury. If they think he could miss extensive time, they could put him on short-term injured reserve to open the season, but then he wouldn’t be eligible to return for eight weeks. If that happens, the Bucs could potentially find another backup with more game experience than No. 3 Ryan Griffin through the waiver wire.

After Friday’s game, Arians said he had complete faith in having as his No. 2 Griffin, who has never taken a regular-season NFL snap despite being the Bucs’ third quarterback the past four years.

Still, the Bucs are in a precarious situation to end the preseason. Winston wasn’t going to play Thursday regardless, and neither was Gabbert had he been healthy. For now, Griffin is No. 2, and the Bucs don’t want to risk injury with him, so he’s unlikely to play much against the Cowboys, if at all.

So, needing a second healthy quarterback on the roster for Thursday, the Bucs on Saturday re-signed Jesuit High product Vincent Testaverde, the son of the team’s all-time leading passer, Vinny Testaverde, to get significant snaps against the Cowboys.

“You’d like to have somebody who has been here a little bit,” Arians said before the Testaverde news was announced. “We’d look to Vinny first because he’s been here, he’s been in camp, he knows the plays and he can get us through the ballgame.”

Bucs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald (7) participates in a special teams drill during the team's organized training activities in May. He's not a viable option to play quarterback in the absence of Blaine Gabbert because he's hurt. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]

MORE BUCS: The Browns are gaining on respectability. The Bucs are going in reverse.

Testaverde received a tryout during rookie minicamp and was signed at the beginning of training camp to be the fourth quarterback with undrafted rookie Nick Fitzgerald out after injuring a hamstring playing beach volleyball just before camp began.

Bucs quarterback Vincent Testaverde (6) hands off to running back Dare Ogunbowale (44) during training camp at the team's AdventHealth Training Center. The son of former Buc Vinny Testaverde may see significant playing time if re-signed. [MONICA HERNDON | TIMES | Tampa Bay Times]

But Testaverde was in camp for just eight days, didn’t receive many practice reps and wasn’t involved in many passing plays.

Fitzgerald hasn’t practiced all preseason. He’s nearing a return, but Arians said he’s not running full speed yet.

The Bucs signed Fitzgerald to fulfill a multifaceted role as a backup quarterback, special-teams player and receiver/tight end, and he practiced in all those spots during the offseason.

The final preseason game is typically the least meaningful, and the players who receive the most snaps are often auditioning for opportunities elsewhere. But with the Bucs still needing to evaluate several skill-position players — the final receiver and potentially tight end spots have yet to be determined — Thursday’s game will offer the staff a final look at players on the bubble.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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