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, get out healthy The Buccaneers host the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on Friday night in their third game of the 2018 preseason. With most starters playing into the second half, week three of the exhibition schedule is usually branded as a “dress-rehearsal.” But for Tampa Bay, avoiding any more injuries has to be priority No. 1 in Friday’s contest.The Bucs have seen several players go down with injuries throughout training camp and the preseason, with some more severe than others. On the defense, Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III have both missed time, as have Mitch Unrein and 2018 first round pick Vita Vea. Rookies Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead have all been banged up at one time or another, while depth pieces on the offensive line such as Leonard Wester, Cole Gardner and Cole Boozer have all missed significant time. All of that is without getting into the more recent injury issues that the team ran into this week. Running back Charles Sims, who was competing for a roster spot Womens Vita Vea Jersey
, is now on injured reserve after going down on the opening kickoff of last Saturday’s win in Tennessee. Then, both Donovan Smith and Justin Evans had to leave Tuesday’s practice. Evans’ foot injury reportedly isn’t too serious, but Smith’s knee injury looked very bad at the time. The Bucs dodged a bullet with that one, though he is still set to miss two-to-four weeks. Luckily, none of these guys are officially ruled out of the season opener as of yet. But the point is, the Bucs need to get through Friday without even one more injury scare. For the most part, the team has accomplished what it needed to in the preseason. Offensively, Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked solid in his time with the starting group, Jameis Winston has been remarkable, Peyton Barber has established himself as the No. 1 back and Demar Dotson has eased his way back in from injury. Defensively http://www.tampabaybuccaneersteamonline.com
, the rebuilt defensive line got some valuable snaps together, while the young rookies in the secondary impressed in their first NFL action. There isn’t a lot left for Tampa Bay to prove before heading to New Orleans in week one. Yes, head coach Dirk Koetter would probably like to get rookie running back Ronald Jones II some confidence-boosting reps, but how obtainable are those going to be without the full starting offensive line and a makeshift second-string group? He has the talent to excel and Barber has more than proven himself to be capable of carrying the load while the rookie finds his footing. No priority is bigger than the team’s health.Koetter will more than likely play the starters into the third quarter on Friday, as NFL coaches typically do in the third preseason game. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s not that the Bucs shouldn’t have objectives for Friday’s game. It’s just that the top objective is maintaining the health of the roster.With all of this said, there’s a tricky thing for Koetter and the rest of the staff heading into Friday: Injuries are uncontrollable. So, the truth is, we can say the words “get out healthy” all we want. When it comes down to it, all there is to do during Friday’s game is hold your breath. Your actions have consequences, whether you intend for it to happen or not.Jameis Winston and the Bucs figured that out during the summer and they are still learning as the season wears on. Tampa Bay has started 2-0 for the first time since 2010. They defeated a popular Super Bowl pick in the Saints in Week 1 and they just beat the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles on Sunday. The offense is on track to finish not only as the greatest offense in franchise history Tampa Bay Buccaneers T-Shirt
, but one of the top offenses in NFL history. Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the league in passer rating with an astounding 151.5 rating. He’s completed over 70% of his passes and has thrown eight touchdowns to one interception.Yet all people are talking about is what happens when Winston returns. It’s interesting to think about considering where the Bucs were just a month ago and where they are now. Writers were already declaring victory for the side that chose Mariota over Winston in the NFL Draft and there were 1-15 season predictions based off of Winston’s suspension coinciding with the hardest opening three-game stretch in NFL history. But now they’re winning - and doing so in very impressive fashion. Yet the main topic is Fitzpatrick vs. Winston/Winston vs. Fitzpatrick in both media headlines and bar conversations.Instead of the “who should start” debate, it should be a “are the Bucs legit contenders” or a “how long can the Bucs keep their offense rolling” or even a “what do the Bucs need to do to become a complete team” debate.The Bucs are playing out of their mind, but there is still one topic dominating discussionsPhoto by Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesThe Bucs are undefeated on the field, but in the public eye, they are still losing. It’s expected that Winston will be back under center when the Bucs travel to Atlanta. If Fitzpatrick continues to play like he has then it’s easy to foresee the uproar that will come along with his “benching” once Winston is officially named the starter.And once again, negativity will surround Tampa Bay. Fair or not, it’s deserved. When the face of your franchise (who has a checkered past) makes a mistake in a similar fashion to what they were once - and still - demonized for, everyone pays the price.A leader is supposed to be a reflection of those they lead. They are supposed to be the stabilizing force that holds everything together, but right now in the case of Winston - it’s the opposite.No matter what happens this season, Winston’s shadow will loom over the franchise and there is nothing that can prevent that from happening. The best case scenario is to keep winning and hope that continues to happen once Winston is re-inserted into the lineup. If the Bucs falter in any way with him at the helm Tampa Bay Buccaneers Hats
, then the franchise better be well prepared for the backlash that will soon follow. Distractions are nothing new for NFL teams, they deal with them all the time. Right now, the Bucs appear to be handling this in the best possible manner. Honest, open, and direct communication with Winston while putting this team in the position to succeed have kept the Bucs from falling victim to the preseason prognostications and potential locker room dysfunction. For 2018, the Bucs need to continue to ignore the outside noise and keep doing what they’re doing - and that’s win.Maybe it will be enough to silence the critics, but only time will tell. And in scenarios such as this, time is all you have on your side.