TAMPA - The reason NFL teams rest most of their starters for their last preseason game is to keep them from getting hurt. On a night fraught with blunders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't even get that part right Thursday.
Just as a myriad of mistakes began to set the tone for what proved to be a 30-12 loss to the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs lost projected starting tight end Tom Crabtree to an ankle injury.
They also lost backup running back candidates Mike James (eye) and Peyton Hillis (ankle) along the way, which forced the Bucs to “ad-lib'' at the running back spot to finish the game.
“That's why we went to the plan where we had (cornerback) Mason Robinson, who played running back in college at one point, and then (wide receiver Jordan) Norwood running for us,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
“They both hopped in there and contributed, and Mason was actually going both ways for us because (cornerback Rashaan) Melvin tweaked a hamstring and (safety Keith) Tandy got some cramps. So it got a little interesting there.''
Crabtree had to be removed from the field on a cart, but X-rays were negative for a fracture, Schiano said. Schiano said he was uncertain of the severity of the injuries suffered by James and Hillis.
“It's too soon to tell for all of them,'' Schiano said. “I know Hillis went (back) out there again, but he was limping off the field after he got taped and went back in, so that's when we went with (Robinson and Norwood).''
The potential loss of Crabtree, who may be forced to miss at least the Sept. 8 opener against the New York Jets, has the potential to dramatically alter the offense. The Bucs have been planning to make generous use this year of a two-tight-end attack utilizing Crabtree and Luke Stocker, and an extended absence by Crabtree could force them to change those plans.
It could also force the Bucs to spend the weekend scouring the waiver wire for a fullback, because Crabtree was filling in there as well while projected starter Erik Lorig recovers from a nagging calf injury.
“We'll have to wait and see on all of that, but if he can't play we'll just have to move some other guys up when it happens,'' said Schiano, who was most disappointed with his team's tackling and the play of quarterback Mike Glennon.
“Tonight was the first time he's looked like a rookie,'' Schiano said of Glennon, who competed seven of 16 throws for 63 yards and turned the ball over twice, once on a fumble and once on an interception.
“He struggled a little bit,'' Schiano added. “Now, it wasn't all just on him. But when he watches this I'm sure he'll say, 'Yeah, I wish I had done this or that instead,' and some of it he's already done.''
The tackling issues emerged almost immediately, as rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks and safety Sean Baker took bad angles in an effort to stop receiver Dezmon Briscoe, who turned a short Pat White pass into a 66-yard gain and a scoring chance on the third play of the game.
The Redskins capitalized on that chance two plays later as running back Evan Royster, who ran 11 times for 59 yards on the night, carried in from the 1 to give Washington a 7-0 lead just 1:49 into the game.
The Redskins increased their lead to 10-0 two drives later when Kai Forbath connected on a 37-yard field goal and then made it 17-0 when Chris Thompson returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown as time expired in the first quarter.
The Bucs tightened the game early in the second quarter when linebacker Najee Goode picked off a Pat White pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. But more problems immediately ensued.
Rookie Derek Dimke, who is battling veteran Rian Lindell for the kicker's job, started things off by clanking his point-after attempt off the right upright, keeping the score at 17-6. Then Glennon got into the act.
After completing two of his first nine passes, he fumbled the ball away ball away on his 10th attempt, the ball simply falling backward out of his hand as he went into his throwing motion.
The Redskins turned that into a 30-yard Forbath field goal and later turned Glennon's interception into a touchdown, White scoring on a 7-yard run in which he gave Washington a 27-6 halftime edge by diving for the pylon.
The Bucs mounted a couple of scoring drives in the second half, including one in which veteran kicker Lindell hit a 50-yarder ,but other than that, there wasn't a lot that Schiano was pleased with.
“Yeah, that was good,'' Schiano said. “And we also had a really good kick return (69 yards by Eric Page), save for the one guy (who was penalized for) holding (that negated it).
“But the hold didn't really free up the return, so the return there, that's a guy that we're bringing on and bringing on and he keeps getting better and he did it again tonight.
“Now he also dropped one later on, but he recovered and I think overall he's put some good work together in this camp.''