The Bucs began a new week Monday with their all-pro right tackle in a protective boot and their iron-horse offensive line potentially in flux.
During his weekly Zoom session with reporters, coach Bruce Arians said he likely won’t know the game-day status of Tristan Wirfs — the first Bucs offensive lineman ever to earn all-pro status — and center Ryan Jensen until later in the week. The pair of Pro Bowlers suffered ankle sprains early in Sunday’s 31-15 wild-card victory against the Eagles.
Additionally, backup tackle Josh Wells, a fixture in the team’s jumbo packages, is nursing a quad injury that left him hobbling for part of the Eagles game.
“Very (concerned) today, hopefully not as much Wednesday and Thursday,” said Arians, whose team hosts the winner of tonight’s Rams-Cardinals game in an NFC division playoff Sunday at 3 p.m.
“But I’m very, very concerned about it today because we were going to have to put (right guard) Alex Cappa at tackle and (Aaron) Stinnie at guard early in the first quarter in that game. Thank God Josh just gutted it out.”
Wirfs sprained his ankle on the game’s opening possession and attempted one more play before exiting. He re-entered briefly in the second quarter and surrendered a third-down sack to Eagles defensive end Ryan Kerrigan before exiting for good.
Prior to his departure, Wirfs hadn’t missed a snap in his two NFL seasons.
“As tough as he is, I think there’s a chance (of him playing Sunday),” Arians said. “He’s in a boot right now. I think he and Ryan are probably going to go all the way to Friday before we know anything true. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Jensen was injured on Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 1-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter, but stayed in the game and played all 73 snaps. Wells played 70 total snaps, including five on special teams. His status also is “wait-and-see,” according to Arians.
“(Jensen’s) mental toughness is off the charts. He’s as tough a dude as there is playing this game,” Arians said. “That thing was going to have to be broken for him not to go back in.”
In a worst-case scenario, the Bucs’ backup options include Stinnie — who shined in three postseason games last year after Cappa broke his ankle — and rookie Robert Hainsey. A third-round pick out of Notre Dame, Hainsey is being groomed as a center by the Bucs, but played 46 games at right tackle for the Irish.
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Problem is, whichever team they face likely will remain aggressive in their pursuit of Tom Brady, who was sacked four times by the Eagles. The Rams, behind seven-time all-pro Aaron Donald, finished third in the NFL in the regular season with 50 sacks. Arizona ranked sixth in quarterback knockdowns per pass attempt (10.7 percent), according to Pro Football Reference.
“Normally you’d know who you’re playing today, and you’re working on your game plan,” Arians said.
“So since last Friday, we’ve been breaking down three different teams. Now it’s down to two. We’ll have two basic game plans set tonight, and then by the morning we’ll be finalizing on who we’re playing.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls
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