Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times confirmed the news of Wirfs’ injury status on Monday, November 28. Wirfs won’t need surgery “barring further test results that determine otherwise” but “there is some ligament damage”, Stroud wrote.
“All things considered this is good news for the Bucs,” Stroud wrote.
Cleveland Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah landed on Wirfs’ leg during a play in overtime when the Bucs fell 23-17 on Sunday, November 27. Wirfs got carted off, wearing an air cast, but he walked on his own power and changed in the locker room without help, Stroud reported.
“It’s tough,” Bucs head coach Bowles told reporters on Sunday. “We know it’s tough. When you lose a player like that ¯ you say, ‘It’s part of the game’ — but a lot of those guys are so close that it hurts a lot. The next man’s got to step up, but hopefully it’s not as bad as it looks and he gets a speedy recovery and we go from there. That’s all you can do in this game. It’s a tragedy to lose guys like that on a team, but at the same time, we’ve got to push on.”
Bucs to Face Defensive Gauntlet Without Wirfs
The bad news comes with the opponents that the Bucs face over the next 3-4 weeks. Tampa Bay’s next two opponents particularly have powerhouse defensive fronts.
The New Orleans Saints rank seventh in pass defense, and the NFC South Division rival has lots of previous success against the Bucs’ offensive line. Then, the Bucs face a Nick Bosa-led San Francisco 49ers defensive front on December 11. San Francisco ranks first in yards allowed and points allowed.
It doesn’t get much easier on December 18 with the Cincinnati Bengals. While the Bengals don’t rank in the top 10 of major defensive categories, Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard provide a dangerous tandem at defensive end with 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles combined.
If Wirfs doesn’t return by Christmas, the Bucs could face the Arizona Cardinals shorthanded up front. The Cardinals also boast a dangerous defensive end duo in J.J. Watt and Zach Allen, who have a combined 11 sacks thus far.
“It’s awful,” Brady told reporters on Sunday. “It’s awful for us, it’s awful for him. He’s a great player for us. The other guys in are going to have to do a good job, but it’s hard to replace him.”
Bucs tackle Josh Wells stepped in for Wirfs, and Wells likely will fill in for Wirfs for the time being. The Bucs also tackle Justin Skule on the practice squad. He has 12 starts in his career previously with the San Francisco 49ers.
Wirfs Just the Latest of a Nightmare Year for Bucs Offensive Line
Wirfs’ injury adds to the plethora of offensive line injuries for the Bucs.
Center Ryan Jensen went down with a knee injury in training camp, guard Aaron Stinnie tore his ACL in a preseason game, and guard Luke Goedeke injured his foot during the regular season. The Bucs also previously lost guard Ali Marpet to retirement and guard Alex Cappa to free agency.