TAMPA — The Bucs’ secondary has become a primary area of concern.
Defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting dislocated his right elbow trying to make a tackle Thursday in the season-opening win against the Cowboys.
His arm got caught between Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb and Bucs safety Antoine Winfield Jr.
Murphy-Bunting walked out of Raymond James Stadium wearing a brace on the arm and was to have an MRI exam Friday.
Coach Bruce Arians said X-rays were negative and has maintained that the injury isn’t season-ending. However, with injuries of this nature, it’s likely Murphy-Bunting will miss at least a month.
“Waiting and hoping for some good news, but we don’t have it yet,” Arians said Friday. “The X-rays came back negative at the stadium (Thursday). He did dislocate it, but we’ve just got to wait and see now. We have nothing to report time-wise yet. But we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Help may arrive for the Bucs’ next game, Sept. 19 against the Falcons. Arians said safety Jordan Whitehead is about 90 percent recovered from his injured hamstring.
“He’s looking really, really good,” Arians said. “Hopefully we can get him back with these three more (off) days and have him practicing next week.”
Safety Mike Edwards also is capable of playing in the slot in a pinch. On Thursday, safety Ross Cockrell moved inside to Murphy-Bunting’s spot.
“It gives us great flexibility,” Arians said. “Antoine (Winfield Jr.) has played it. Mike has played it. It gives us real good flexibility to interchange those guys a little bit more and still have Ross on the field, too. … We got thin real fast (Thursday).”
The Bucs got a huge lift from safety Andrew Adams, who was elevated from the practice squad and had been in Tampa Bay for about only a week after being released by the Eagles.
Adams made arguably the play of the game, tackling running back Ezekiel Elliott on an option pitch to force a field goal.
“(Adams) knows the system, he can jump right back in, and he stepped up and played real good for us (Thursday) night,” Arians said.
Running back Ronald Jones lost a fumble in the second quarter and essentially ended his night.
He finished with 14 yards on four rushing attempts before the bulk of the running game was turned over to Leonard Fournette (nine rushes for 32 yards).
Arians said Jones didn’t return to the game because the turnover affected him mentally.
“(Jones) was running really well until the fumble, and he struggled mentally to get over it,” Arians said. “That was too big of a game to go out there and not be totally focused, so Lenny got the rest of the way.”
Running back Giovani Bernard did not have a rushing attempt but caught two passes for 12 yards on the winning drive. “He’s our third-down back and two-minute back,” Arians said.
Jaydon over Jaelon
JJaydon Mickens was promoted from the practice squad and served as the primary kick returner in the game.
The Bucs chose him over rookie Jaelon Darden, who held the job in training camp and the preseason.
Arians said given the magnitude of the game, he didn’t want to put undue pressure on a first-year player.
Mickens had a good game, averaging 30.7 yards on kickoff returns and 10.5 on punt returns.
“Jaydon has done a heck of a job, but again, I’m not going to let (Darden) fail as a rookie,” Arians said. “He has such a great, great future. We wanted as much veteran presence on that field as we possibly could, knowing the situation and intensity of the game. (Mickens has) been there and done it. It’s nothing against Jaelon.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com or 727-709-5982. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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