Bucs guard J.R. Sweezy 'on track' but could be placed on PUP list

J.R. Sweezy has yet to be able to practice in training camp because of a back injury.
J.R. Sweezy has yet to be able to practice in training camp because of a back injury.
Published Aug. 14, 2016

TAMPA — The back injury that has sidelined J.R. Sweezy since the guard signed a $32.5 million contract with the Bucs in March is healing, but it's troublesome enough that the club likely will place him on the physically-unable-to-perform list, costing him the first five games of the season.

Sweezy, a free agent from Seattle tabbed to replace retired starter Logan Mankins at left guard, had surgery on a herniated disc in the spring after joining the team. Last week, Sweezy received a second opinion from a doctor in California who did not do the surgery and came away pleased with the results.

"Just went and got it checked out. Everything is good. I'm on track," Sweezy said Saturday. "I'm taking it day by day and trying to get back to where I need to be to play at the level I need to play at."

Sweezy's injury appears similar to the one sustained last season by DT Akeem Spence, who had a discectomy on a herniation in his back and showed no ill effects after missing five games.

The Bucs, who guaranteed $14.5 million of Sweezy's salary, passed him on a physical in March, but he has yet to practice. The Seahawks are believed to have offered Sweezy the same deal, and he also received interest from the Falcons and Titans.

Because of the long-term investment the Bucs plan to be overly cautious so he's 100 percent when he returns, as soon as Oct. 23 against the 49ers. Their bye comes in Week 6.

The team has three weeks before deciding; that's the earliest it can place a player on the reserve PUP list once rosters are trimmed to 75. It could also carry him on the 53-man roster if it believes he would be ready in September.

The Bucs are fortunate to have third-year pro Kevin Pamphile to play left guard until Sweezy returns. Pamphile gave up one pressure against the Eagles on Thursday night but otherwise has performed well in training camp.

Under an old regime, the Bucs paid for rushing a player back too soon from injury. Free agent G Carl Nicks, who contracted MRSA in his big toe, appeared in only nine games with the team in two seasons. He reached an injury settlement with the club in 2012, ending his career.

Monken helping Evans relax: WR Mike Evans had more catches (74 to 68) and more yards (1,206 to 1,051) last season than he did as a rookie, but many still believed he had a sophomore slump. There were two reasons: touchdowns were down from 12 to three and drops were up. Evans led the league in dropped passes with 11, including six against the Giants.

Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken says Evans' problems are not his hands, it's his head. More specifically, he beats himself up over every mistake.

"Mike has some anxiety. Mike puts a lot of pressure on himself," Monken said. "Mike expects to be great. Well, I actually bought him a little book (titled) Don't Sweat The Small Stuff. It's helped me a bunch. It's just little things, Mike, move on. Because if you watch Mike, stuff comes in bunches. That's usually the sign of someone with anxiety, gets frustrated, and it just carries over and they come in bunches.

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"One of the first days we had out here he caught everything. I said, 'Let it go, man.' People are going to drop balls, but let's not drop five balls. Let it go and not be five. He wants it, he wants to be successful. It's not ability. It's something internally. Taking care of himself and then letting things go. A dropped ball is not going to lead to you being cut. A dropped ball is not going to lead to us losing. A dropped ball is not going to lead to your wife leaving you. A dropped ball is not going to lead to something happening to your family. It's a dropped ball. It's a mistake. Move on. Next play."

Evans' other problem has been staying healthy. This year he came in around 220 pounds and is playing well.

"Yeah, just focus," Evans said. "You know, I wasn't focused in some games, and I have to do that better. I have to practice more. I have to get better in practice with it. It just comes with repetition. Last season is behind me."

Bucs bits: The team hopes to find a kickoff returner without going outside its roster. It was pleased with second-year WR Dontaae Dye in the preseason opener against Philadelphia. On the other hand, WR Kenny Bell didn't help his chances of making the club by fumbling the opening kickoff. Bell will likely drop on the depth chart but still has time to make a case for sticking with the club. … DE Noah Spence did well against the run in Philadelphia, and the team hopes to learn whether he is an every-down player or a designated pass rusher.