TAMPA — The Buccaneers returned to work following the bye week on Monday hoping to get good news on most, if not all of their injured players. As it turns out, the news only got worse.
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who missed six games with knee problems a year ago, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday after an MRI revealed damage to his left anterior cruciate ligament.
“This is obviously very disappointing for me personally,’’ Jackson said in a statement released by the Buccaneers. “I had high hopes for this season because I know what we are capable of accomplishing as a team.
“While I may not be on the field for the foreseeable future, I will be focused on beginning my rehab as soon as possible and finding ways to support my teammates in whatever way I can.”
Not even Jackson, who played 53 snaps in the Buccaneers 17-14 victory at Carolina last Monday including several during the final offensive drive, could say for sure how or when he actually suffered the injury.
Jackson, in fact, made two catches during that final game-winning drive, and on both occasions he got up from the play and did not seem to favor his knees in any way.
It’s possible, though, that the injury occurred early in the game, after Jackson caught a 17-yard pass on a third-and-5 play in the first quarter and took a shot to his right knee from safety Kurt Coleman.
No matter the timing of the injury, the three catches the three-time Pro Bowler and Jackson made in that game may prove to the last he ever makes as a member of the Buccaneers.
Now 33 years old and in his 12th season in the NFL, Jackson was struggling this season to regain the form that made him a perennial thousand-yard receiver in the league.
He struggled at times early in the year to get open and even dropped a couple of passes and ranked fourth on the team in receiving when he was placed on injured reserve with 15 catches for 173 yards and no touchdowns.
Still, his presence figures to be missed on a team that lacks experience at the receiver position but still felt so confident in its depth that it ignored the position during the draft.
“Any time you lose a player and team leader of Vincent’s caliber, it is a setback for your team,’’ Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said. “Vincent is a very tough-minded player and a great competitor.”
“Even though he doesn’t recall when he injured his knee, he was still out there the entire game and made two crucial catches on our final drive to set up the game-winning field goal.”
“I know that being placed on Injured Reserve is difficult for him, but I also know he will maintain a strong presence in our locker room and will help our younger guys prepare and develop because that’s the type of team-first leader he is.”
The news of the loss of Jackson actually came amid some good news regarding the team’s receiving corps as Cecil Shorts and Louis Murphy both returned to practice this past Monday.
Shorts has been out nursing a sore hamstring since Week 3 and Murphy has been out for almost a year recovering from offseason ACL surgery. The Buccaneers also signed Donteea Dye and Freddy Martino to their practice squad on Monday.
Martino has been bouncing on and off the Buccaneers roster all season, but Dye, who stepped in as a replacement for Murphy a year ago, may be the more intriguing of the two to watch going forward.
An undrafted free agent signed by the Buccaneers last season, he doesn’t Jackson’s size or experience but he does have the top-end speed the Buccaneers have been lacking at the receiver position.