TAMPA — Receiver Julio Jones, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, defensive end Akiem Hicks and tight end Cameron Brate will all miss Sunday’s game against the Panthers, Bucs coach Todd Bowles said Friday.
Additionally, Bowles said that safety Mike Edwards is “on track to play” after a good week of practice. Edwards (hyperextended right elbow), who reminded Bowles of Steve Austin and the “bionic man” while wearing his two elbow braces, was a full participant Wednesday and Thursday.
Edwards missed last weekend’s game against the Steelers after exiting in the second half of a Week 6 win over the Falcons. He was listed as questionable for Sunday on the Bucs’ final injury report of the week, along with cornerback Carlton Davis (hip) and offensive lineman Shaq Mason (ankle).
Sunday will mark the second straight game Murphy-Bunting (quad) has missed, while Hicks (foot) and Jones (knee) haven’t logged snaps for Tampa Bay since Week 2 and Week 4, respectively.
The Bucs still don’t know how much time Brate will miss, but Bowles said seeing him around the facility has been an encouraging sign. Brate sustained a concussion earlier in the season before spraining his neck in Pittsburgh, which resulted in him leaving the field on a stretcher. His absence will allow Kyle Rudolph and rookie Cade Otton — who had a career-high six catches against Atlanta — to have additional opportunities at the tight end position.
Tampa Bay didn’t give defensive lineman Logan Hall (abdomen/groin) an injury designation entering the weekend after he logged back-to-back full practices. Receiver Mike Evans and linebacker Lavonte David took veteran rest days Friday, and they also don’t have an injury designation.
Does Christian McCaffrey trade affect Bucs?
Less than 72 hours before kickoff between the Bucs and Panthers, Carolina traded star running back Christian McCaffrey to San Francisco in exchange for draft picks. McCaffrey had accounted for 42.9% of Carolina’s total offense — the Panthers rank last in the NFL with an average of 260 yards per game — this season.
Bowles said the trade won’t impact the Bucs’ preparation much entering the weekend, though.
“We look at it as somebody getting hurt and not playing that week,” Bowles said. “So for us, we worry about us. We’re trying to get back on the winning track, so the big focus for us is our team this week — not what they have going on and who they traded.”
The Panthers will now utilize a backfield that features D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard. With McCaffrey injured last season, Hubbard totaled 15 carries for 57 yards in two games against the Bucs.
Tampa Bay will also face quarterback P.J. Walker — who Bowles said he has known for a long time — as he makes his second straight start for Carolina. Walker went to Elizabeth High School in New Jersey and attended Temple like Bowles, and they’re from the same neighborhood, too.
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“We know each other pretty well,” Bowles said. “He’s a very athletic guy. He’s very courageous. He’s tough. He’s going to bring a lot of energy to the team, and he’s not afraid of the moment.”
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