Injury concerns welled up again for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, August 5, at training camp.
“I saw him walk in. Might have tweaked a hamstring, but I’ll see when I go inside,” Bowles told the media on Friday.
Hamstring issues aren’t new for Evans, an annual problem as Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud noted. Evans first suffered a hamstring injury in a 2014 game, and he has endured hamstring injuries another five times over years per DraftSharks.com. Only once did it lead to missing multiple regular season games when he injured his hamstring against the Indianapolis Colts in 2019.
Injuries hit the offensive line already at training camp with center Ryan Jensen‘s knee injury on July 29 and tackle Tristan Wirfs cramping up on Tuesday, August 2. Jensen could miss months for the knee injury while Wirfs returned to practice at camp after the cramps.
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Evans Critical to Bucs Offense
The Bucs could ill afford to lose Evans, who has an NFL record eight-consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Evans has more touchdowns, 75, than any active receiver since he entered the league in 2014 per Stat Muse. He had 74 receptions for 1,035 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who previously played with all-time great Randy Moss in the 2000s, considers Evans one of the best ever. Brady notably threw his 600th career touchdown pass to Evans last season.
“It’s been a real privilege for me to play with him,” Brady said in a recent Buccaneers.com video. “He’s one of the NFL all-time greats.”
Julio Jones Insurance
Tampa Bay came into training camp with injury issues among the receivers. Chris Godwin returned to practicing at camp on Friday after an ACL tear from last year, and Russell Gage started practice when camp opened following an undisclosed injury that kept him out of minicamp.
Though not a receiver, it didn’t help the Bucs offense when tight end Rob Gronkowski retired. He caught 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns last year.
The Bucs subsequently added free agent star Julio Jones on July 26 before training camp. Jones, a seven-time Pro Bowler, played seven games for the Tennessee Titans last year amid injury and had career lows in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.
“Well he’s still a good football player,” Bowles said about Jones in a July 27 press conference. “We gotta replace Gronk’s catches, you know? So we’ve got an extra weapon, especially in the red zone and out in the field, and we’re gonna put him to use, and he gives us a chance to be more creative in some of the things that we do, and we’re happy to have him.”
“If you look at last year, we got beat up pretty good in the receiver room and we kinda limped to the finish line at the end,” Bowles added, “So if you wait ’til midseason, you’re not gonna get a good football player, you’re gonna be grabbing guys, so [general manager] Jason [Licht]’s very smart, we’re gonna do the smart thing and try to get a lot of depth now so we don’t have to stumble or hit a rock [later] … when we’ve got people that can step in that know how to play.”