First it was defensive end Robert Ayers. Then it was running back Doug Martin. Now, wide receiver Louis Murphy has joined the club none of them wish to be a part of.
What is it that this trio of Buccaneers regulars has in common? In the last month all three have suffered setbacks in their attempt to return to the lineup from injury.
The news of Murphy’s setback came Wednesday afternoon, just a week after it was learned that Martin had suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring strain.
The only good news is that Murphy’s setback is not a result of him re-injuring the right knee that had to be surgically repaired after he tore his ACL last November.
“It’s a different injury than his knee,’’ said Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who did not elaborate further.
Murphy, who has been on the physically unable to perform list all season, was just cleared to return to practice last week, but he disappeared from practice after only two days of workouts.
There is no timetable for Murphy’s return, which could prove problematic, because the Bucs only had 21 days from the day Murphy returned to practice to reinstate him to their roster.
If Murphy cannot return from the PUP list within that 21-day practice period he will be reverted to injured reserve and unless he’s designated for return, will be lost for the season.
The Bucs are already facing the possibility of spending the rest of the year without Martin, who is out indefinitely after tweaking his hamstring the day before the Bucs took on the Panthers three weeks ago.
Earlier in that same week, on the very day he returned to practice, Ayers suffered a setback in his recovery from the high left ankle sprain he suffered during the Bucs Week 2 loss at Arizona.
The setbacks suggest the Bucs may be trying to rush some of these players back too soon, but it’s likely the setbacks are mostly a result of the nature of the injuries themselves.
There was likely no way for Murphy to avoid the new injury he sustained, but in the case of Martin and Ayers, their setbacks may just be further proof of the unpredictable nature of hamstring strains and high ankle sprains.
On the positive side of things, Ayers was back at practice on Wednesday, as was fellow defensive lineman Clinton McDonald. Ayers worked out only in shorts on a day when the Bucs were in full pads but his presence and that of McDonald suggests the Bucs pass rush could get a boost just in time for their game Sunday against the Raiders.