TAMPA — The Bucs won’t know the severity of injuries to two key players — wide receiver Chris Godwin and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting — in Sunday’s 28-10 win over Denver until they’re able to read MRIs scheduled to be performed on Monday.
But the team has to prepare for the possibility of being without both when it hosts the Chargers this weekend at Raymond James Stadium.
“We’ll know more after we get the film back on the MRIs and see how it goes,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of Godwin’s hamstring injury and Murphy-Bunting’s hamstring/groin injury.
Hamstring injuries are unpredictable, and they typically don’t heal quickly without rest. Earlier this season, wide receiver Mike Evans didn’t practice for two weeks to ensure he’d be able to play, and last season both Evans and Godwin had their seasons cut short by hamstring injuries.
Godwin, who returned Sunday after missing the previous game against the Panthers with concussion symptoms, scored the Bucs' first touchdown. He had five catches for 64 yards before leaving in the third quarter after he was holding his right hamstring.
Godwin was primed for a 100-catch season last year before missing the final two games with a hamstring injury.
With Godwin out — and Justin Watson not playing with a shoulder injury — Scotty Miller had a team-high 83 receiving yards on three catches. The absences also meant more snaps for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who played a season-high 63 snaps after averaging 48 over the first two games. Gronkowski had his best game as a Buc with a team-high six catches for 48 yards.
Murphy-Bunting exited Sunday’s game with what the team called groin and hamstring injuries after playing just 19 snaps.
Second-round pick Antoine Winfield Jr. shifted from safety to the slot to fill Murphy-Bunting’s spot at the nickel-back position, and Mike Edwards saw his first defensive snaps of the season filling Winfield’s spot at safety. Cornerback Jamel Dean also played a season-high 55 snaps in Murphy-Bunting’s absence.
“Hopefully we don’t get another injury where we start getting thinner and thinner,” Arians said. “But Mike (had) a great interception. I knew he’d play well — he’s been waiting for his shot. (Winfield) is an excellent nickel, so we don’t miss too much. Obviously, we lose a really good player in Sean, but we have capable backups there.”
Welcoming back the home crowd
Arians said he’s excited to see fans in the stands again at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday for the first time this season.
The Bucs played their first home game in front of no fans and had initially planned on playing without them again Sunday against the Chargers. But after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Phase 3 reopening last week, the Bucs decided to have a soft opening for fans this week, allowing the team’s longest-tenured season-ticket holders the chance to attend the game.
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Capacity for Sunday’s game is expected to be no more than 10,000. It will increase to about 25 percent (around 16,250) starting with the Oct. 18 home game against the Packers.
“It’s going to be great (for) the ones that can get in,” Arians said. “I know how excited our fans are. You see it all around town. To hopefully get more and more each week, keeping them safe and knowing how to keep them safe. Hopefully, the ones that come in are smart enough to keep themselves safe so we continue to add more and more fans in the stadium.”
Quote of the Day
“Once you get there, you want to stay there. We got two in a row — let’s get three in a row.”
— Arians, on his team currently sitting in first place in the NFC South with a 2-1 record
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.