Tampa Bay Buccaneers received a scare in the final preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Bucs starting center Robert Hainsey went down during a drive in the second quarter. Hainsey needed help walking to the sideline afterward, but the team received relatively good news shortly after.
Hainsey injured his ankle according to Buccaners.com’s Scott Smith, and the former Notre Dame star remained on the sideline according to the WDAE broadcast. WDAE sideline reporter T.J. Rives reported that Hainsey said “I’m fine” to teammates during the broadcast.
A second-round draft pick in 2021, Hainsey became the starting center after Pro Bowler Ryan Jensen injured his knee at training camp on July 28. Fellow backup lineman Nick Leverett took over at center after Hainsey left the game, but Leverett injured his shoulder in the third quarter against the Colts. Backup center John Molchon filled in for Leverett.
Injuries also hit the Bucs offensive line last week against the Tennessee Titans when left guard Aaron Stinnie tore his ACL. The Bucs also lost Pro Bowl tackle Tristan Wirfs to an oblique injury in that game.
Wirfs didn’t play against the Colts, but he is expected to return early in the regular season. Josh Wells started for Wirfs at right tackle for the Colts game.
Bucs Taking ‘In House’ Approach Amid Linemen Injuries
Despite injuries on the offensive line, Bucs head coach Todd Bowles maintained that they’re staying “in house” instead of going for a free agent or trade. For instance, Leverett had been in competition with Hainsey for the starting center job.
“We like our in-house options, but there’s gotta be a player available for us to like,” Bowels said during a Monday, August 22 press conference. “We’re not just going to sign one to sign one.”
The Bucs’ $6.8 million in salary cap space, per Spotrac, if the right free agent surfaces. Quality free agent linemen remain available such as tackle Eric Fisher — one of the surprise remaining free agents per Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox.
Bucs V.P. of Player Personnel John Spytek echoed Bowles’ point of sticking in house despite the injuries. Spytek said on Thursday, August 24, that “it’s our job in the scouting department to build as deep of a roster as we can” and highlighted the drafting of Hainsey rookie guard Luke Goedeke as examples.
“We like Brandon Walton,” Spytek added. “Nick Leverett has done a great job [too]. Listen, anytime you start losing a lot of players at a position like we did at corner last year, it gets tough because there’s only so many guys who can do it at a high level. You know, we’re happy with the progress of the guys in there, they’re competing their tails off and we’ll see how it shapes up.”
Tom Brady Leads Scoring Drive With Hainsey at Center
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady played with the new-look offensive line for the opening drive at Indianapolis and led the team to a field goal. Brady had good protection and got the ball out quickly, primarily to tight end Cameron Brate and wide receiver Tyler Johnson.
Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert took over during the ensuing drives in the first half. Hainsey blocked for most of the Bucs’ second scoring drive, capped by running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s 1-yard touchdown run.