TAMPA — After only three days of practice, Richard Sherman found himself in the most unusual circumstance of his career. He was starting, but not starring for the Bucs in a critical game at New England.
Sherman, 33, played 58 of the team’s 59 snaps on defense in the 19-17 win over the Patriots. He recorded a team-best seven tackles and recovered a fumble, but also was flagged for pass interference.
“It’s amazing,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He played really, really well. You know, he had the one penalty, but no, I was really, really pleased with Sherm and (defensive back) Pierre (Desir). I thought they both went out and played really, really good.”
Unfortunately for the Bucs, they’re going to need more contributions from newcomers due to mounting injuries in the secondary.
Cornerback Carlton Davis sustained a left quad injury and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is in concussion protocol. Both are likely to miss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
“Getting back so late, Antoine, it’s going to be hard to get out of the protocol this week probably just because of the timing and the trip,” said Arians, whose team arrived in Tampa around 6 a.m. Monday. “I don’t know how or (how) long the injury is going to be. So we’ve got more guys who are going to have to step in and step up.”
Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who is recovering from a dislocated elbow sustained in the season opener against Dallas, is improving. “He’s probably a ways away, but he’s making progress,” Arians said.
The loss of Winfield could be particularly devastating. He had an outstanding game in New England, with a forced fumble and interception to go with seven tackles. It could leave safety Jordan Whitehead as the only starter in the secondary against Miami.
Sherman, who did not have the benefit of an offseason, training camp or preseason games, was critical of his play. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones went 7 of 7 passing for 74 yards when Sherman was the nearest defender.
“A lot of work to do,” Sherman tweeted. “Not my best day of football but grateful for the win. Felt great to be back. It will get cleaned up! (Appreciate) the support from everyone. 10 toes down regardless of circumstance.”
Bucs linebacker Devin White said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was able to simplify the number of coverages thrown at Sherman, and his experience enabled him to hold up.
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“I feel like he’s getting back in shape, no training camp and all that,” White said. “I’m proud of him for his game (in New England). He got a fumble recovery. I think he led the team in tackles — which that shouldn’t happen — but I think he came out strong and we’re going to continue to get better.”
Sherman had not played in a game since Dec. 20, 2020, when he allowed six receptions on six targets for 44 yards and two touchdowns in the 49ers’ 41-33 loss to the Cowboys. When you consider that was 287 days ago, it’s remarkable the five-time Pro Bowl player was able to hold up for the entire game.
Give him a couple more weeks and maybe Sherman will be filling up the stat sheet, not just filling in.
More injury news: Arians said it’s possible linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder/hand) and Jamel Dean (knee) could practice this week. The status of tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs) and running back Giovani Bernard (knee) is unknown.
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