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Bucs rookie linebacker Devin White out with knee injury

The team’s first-round pick limped off the field and didn’t return in Thursday’s win at the Panthers.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The left knee injury that Bucs rookie inside linebacker Devin White’s sustained in the first quarter of Thursday night’s game isn’t expected to be serious, but it was enough to keep him out of the remainder of the Bucs’ eventual 20-14 win over the Carolina Panthers as Bank of America Stadium.

The Bucs’ heralded first-round pick left the game in the first quarter just six plays into the Panthers’ first offensive series, and despite obvious attempts to return to the field, he didn’t.

Initial tests revealed only a sprain, and White is expected to undergo an MRI on Friday.

“They haven’t said but I don’t think it was that serious,” White said. “They we’re like, ‘It’s only the second game, so we rather not go out there and turn something minor into something major.’”

Veteran Kevin Minter filled in admirably in White’s place, recording eight tackles and a quarterback hit filling in for White. Minter has been a mentor to the rookie since White’s early college days at LSU, where Minter was also a standout linebacker.

“He was one of the greatest to ever do it [at LSU]," White said of Minter. "He’s very confident in his ability, especially in this system. He knows he can get the job done any day. And I’m glad I’ve got a brother behind me wo have step up like he did. That’s what we do. We’re in this together.”

The Panthers had first and 10 at their 44-yard line in the first quarter when running back Christian McCaffrey ran up the middle for a 6-yard gain. White was in on the tackle and seemed to twist awkwardly to the ground. He attempted to get up, but couldn’t put weight on his left leg and quickly went to the ground.

He was attended to by team trainers and was able to walk gingerly off the field under his own power.

As the Bucs retreated to the locker room for a lightning delay shortly after his exit, White jogged off the field with his teammates with no obvious limp.

White returned to the field following a 25-minute weather delay, and tested his knee in front of team trainers and doctors along the Bucs sideline, but retreated to the locker room and did not return.

“We didn’t want to take a chance with him and we knew we had a veteran in there to call the defensive plays,” Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said.

Arians was also impressed with Minter’s play.

“I’d give Kevin the game ball,” said Arians, who coached Minter in Arizona. “He steps in there and he’s a pro. He’s always prepared and ready to roll.”

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kevin Minter (51) and defensive tackle Vita Vea (50) during the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) [BRIAN BLANCO | AP]

Not only do the Bucs have high hopes for White, but he’s also been mentioned as a favorite to win defensive rookie of the year honors before playing his first game. He has a rare combination of play-making ability and leadership traits for a 21-year-old, and coach Bruce Arians immediately gave him the responsibility of relaying play calls in the defensive huddle.

The Bucs entered Thursday night’s with fewer injuries than they have in weeks. The only players out with injury going into the game was backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who is recovering from a dislocated nonthrowing shoulder.

White played his first game last week despite dealing with tonsillitis throughout the week, an illness that forced him to go to the hospital the Friday before the game. He lost 10 pounds because it hurt so much to swallow and needed a minor surgical procedure to remove an abscess behind his tonsils, ESPN reported.

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

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