TAMPA — For Tristan Wirfs, the last two weeks have been frustrating.
After entering the offseason with an ankle injury suffered in the playoffs, the tackle returned to his spot with the first-team offensive line through the early stages of training camp. Then, in a joint-practice drill with the Titans on Aug. 18, Wirfs strained his oblique. That set his preseason back.
Wirfs has practiced the last two days during the 30-minute window open to the media, and head coach Todd Bowles said Thursday that Wirfs (in addition to Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett) is trending toward being available for the Bucs’ Sept. 11 opener.
“It’s a little frustrating sometimes, just having, like, stupid stuff like that (oblique strain) or just annoying stuff,” Wirfs said. “But I’d rather make sure I’m good to go than come back and have it tweak again.”
Rushing back could turn the injury into a “weekly thing” that nags him the entire season, Wirfs said. So the third-year offensive lineman spent time in the training room the last two weeks trying to prevent that from happening.
Even with the injuries and shuffling across the line, Wirfs said the unit has started to find a rhythm. The fact that they’re always around each other — in the meeting room, on the field — makes it “pretty easy to gel,” he said.
They’ll keep working on solidifying their communication, but Bowles said their cohesiveness will “come over time.”
“It’s not gonna be exact Week 1,” Bowles said, “but it’s gonna be good enough. As they keep working together, the chemistry’s gonna grow.”
Bernard, Gage also near return
Running back Giovani Bernard stretched and practiced with the Bucs Thursday. He suffered an ankle injury in the preseason opener against the Dolphins, and Bowles said Bernard has been “moving around well” — with the hope that they team will have him available for the regular-season opener.
Additionally, wide receiver Russell Gage practiced for a second consecutive day after injuring his hamstring in a joint-practice drill with the Dolphins. Gage said he’s “feeling well” after Thursday’s practice, adding that the Bucs “feel good” about their synchronicity on offense despite key pieces missing time during camp.
“He’s getting better and better every day,” Bowles said about Gage, who signed with the Bucs after four years with the Falcons. “We expect him to be on track to play and trending in the right direction.”
Odds and ends
The Bucs officially placed center Ryan Jensen on injured reserve Thursday morning with a knee injury and signed safety Logan Ryan back to the 53-man roster. Jensen will be eligible to return later in the season, though no specific information about his injury — sustained on the second day of camp — has been released. … The factor that set Ryan Succop apart from Jose Borregales in the preseason kicking competition: consistency, Bowles said. … The Bucs signed cornerback Anthony Chesley as the 15th member of their practice squad, leaving them with one opening. He originally signed with the Bengals in 2019 as an undrafted free agent from Coastal Carolina. He also spent time with the Texans and Colts. Bowles said the Bucs liked Chesley’s “foot quickness” to upgrade their practice squad.
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