Robert Hainsey, Nick Leverett injuries shouldn’t keep them out of Bucs’ opener at Dallas

Preliminary tests on the starting center and backup guard reveal that both players should be able to prepare and play against the Cowboys on Sept. 11.
Nick Leverett (left) and Robert Hainsey (right) both returned to practice Wednesday after suffering injuries against the Colts.
Nick Leverett (left) and Robert Hainsey (right) both returned to practice Wednesday after suffering injuries against the Colts. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Aug. 31, 2022|Updated Sept. 1, 2022

TAMPA ― Tom Brady’s offensive line may not be as beat-up as once feared.

Preliminary tests indicated the ankle injury sustained by center Robert Hainsey and the shoulder injury that forced Nick Leverett to leave Saturday’s preseason game at Indianapolis are not considered serious.

Both players practiced Wednesday during the 30-minute window open to the media, and they should be able to play in the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at Dallas.

“They’re both trending in the right direction,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday. “If they continue to heal, they’ll be ready to practice next week and should be available for the game.”

Tackle Tristan Wirfs has missed the past two preseason games with a strained oblique suffered during a pass-rush drill against the Titans, but he also practiced Wednesday and is expected to return in time for the regular-season opener.

The Bucs still haven’t provided details of the significant knee injury suffered by Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen on the second day of training camp. Bowles said Wednesday that the team is still waiting for swelling to subside. Jensen was placed on injured reserve late Wednesday night, but because he was part of the Bucs’ initial 53-man roster, he is eligible to return.

Guard Aaron Stinnie suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Titans.

Ryan will ‘be back’

Bowles said early Wednesday veteran safety Logan Ryan will “be back” even though the team released him ahead of Tuesday’s roster deadline. He was true to his word, as Ryan was re-signed following the Jensen move.

Ryan signed with the Bucs this offseason after two seasons with the Giants, three with the Titans and four with the Patriots, where he was a teammate of Brady and right guard Shaq Mason.

14 players join practice squad

Fourteen players released by the Bucs across training camp and the preseason were signed to their practice squad Wednesday. That leaves the team two vacant spots to fill for the 16-player squad.

Quarterback Ryan Griffin, running back Patrick Laird, tight end J.J. Howland, wide receivers Deven Thompkins and Kaylon Geiger, and offensive linemen John Molchon and Dylan Cook were the offensive players. Outside linebacker Genard Avery, cornerback Don Gardner, defensive linemen Mike Greene and Willington Previlon, linebacker J.J. Russell, defensive tackle Deadrin Senat and safety Nolan Turner have worked with the defense throughout the last month.

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Walton lives the dream

Roughly 24 hours after learning he had made a final NFL roster for the first time, Seminole High alumnus Brandon Walton remained numb to the reality.

“It hasn’t hit me yet still,” said Walton, who spent the 2021 season on the Bucs practice squad and has trained at all three offensive line positions this preseason.

“I’m in camp mode right now, just doing what I do every day. A lot of people have been hitting my phone and just telling my mom. It’s a great feeling, but it’s still work, you know what I’m saying? But I’m still going.”

Retained for his versatility, Walton, 24, played both tackle spots at Florida Atlantic but has trained at tackle and guard as a pro, logging reps at first-team left guard more than once during training camp. He never has lined up at center in a game in his career, which dates to youth football at the Greater Ridgecrest YMCA in Largo, but practices snapping two or three times a week.

“Honestly, at this point, I don’t have (a favorite position),” Walton said. “I wake up every day, I’m like, ‘Whatever y’all need me to do, I’m going to do it.’”

Odds and ends

Wide receiver Russell Gage stretched with the team and appeared to work off to the side — both wearing and holding a helmet at times — during the portion of practice open to the media. He suffered a hamstring injury during a joint-practice drill with the Dolphins. … Running back Giovani Bernard (ankle) and cornerback Zyon McCollum (hamstring) didn’t practice Wednesday. … Bowles said the Bucs felt comfortable trading linebacker Grant Stuard — who played 65% of special-teams snaps in the 2021 regular season — to the Colts because Olakunle Fatukasi and K.J. Britt were “a little bit better” at linebacker, while still adding value on special teams. “We needed help on both,” Bowles said. The Bucs traded Stuard and a 2023 seventh-round pick to the Colts in exchange for a sixth-round selection in 2023.

Times staff writer Joey Knight contributed to this report.

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