TAMPA - The digital clock that hangs in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker room and counts down the days, hours and minutes to their next game says everything you need to know about the team's mindset regarding cornerback Darrelle Revis, right guard Davin Joseph and left guard Carl Nicks.
Though Saturday's preseason game against Miami is next on the schedule, the clock with the long red readout is ticking down to the Sept. 8 season opener against the New York Jets.
The focus is on getting that trio of rehabilitating Pro Bowlers to the Sept. 8 game. And while Revis and Joseph are confident their surgically repaired knees will be healthy enough to play that day, the chances of Nicks playing against the Jets have suddenly become less certain.
Already limited by a surgically repaired plantar plate in his left big toe, Nicks has a blister on the other side of his left foot that became infected over the weekend.
“We had a setback with Carl,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “He did a great job up there (practicing against the Patriots) last week in New England. He practiced, I guess, the entire time. But he developed a blister that has gotten infected, so now we're treating that, and it's not something you mess around with.
“So the question is, how long will he be (out)? I don't know.”
The length of Nicks' absence isn't the only thing the Bucs are not sure of. The team also is uncertain just how the blister developed in the first place.
“It's all speculation,'' Schiano said. “That foot is a little bit bigger than the other one now (because) of all the stuff that he's been through with it, so who knows if it's the shoe or whatever?''
The blister was one reason Nicks was held out of Friday's game against the Patriots. The infection, meanwhile, likely will keep Nicks out of the Miami game.
As for playing Nicks in the Sept. 8 opener, Schiano isn't ready to give up on that just yet. As the clock in the locker room suggests, time is actually on the Bucs' side.
“I still think that's a realistic possibility,'' Schiano said. “Again, it's very unpredictable when you're dealing with something like this. It's easier when you sprain an ankle. We have timelines for that.
“So we'll see how he reacts (to the medication) and see how fast it clears up. Usually with these things they have to heal, so it's all about time.”
Nicks was unavailable for comment Monday, which proved to be the biggest day yet for Revis and Joseph, both of whom are recovering from 2012 season-ending knee injuries. With the Bucs focusing largely on their running attack and rush defense, both players participated regularly in 11-on-11 team drills for the first time and came away feeling good about their progress.
“At the end of (practice Monday) everybody was kind of looking at me like, 'Are you OK?' And I'm like, 'I'm out here, I'm ready to go.' Like I said, it's a day-to-day thing.
“It's all just predicated on how I feel, and today I felt great.''
Joseph, too, was encouraged.
“We definitely stepped it up today, getting a little more involved with fundamentals and all the basics and just trying to really get ready to play football,'' Joseph said.
Joseph, who participated in all but two periods of practice Monday, hopes to play against the Dolphins on Saturday. Schiano, however, has reservations about pushing him too far too fast.
“We'll see how he responds because he worked his tail off last week when he was here (in Tampa),'' Schiano said of Joseph, who did not travel to New England for the joint practices with the Patriots. “He put in a lot of work to get ready for (Monday).
“Now we have to see how he reacts. I'm confident, though, that he's confident, so we'll see.”
Through two preseason games, the first-team offense has looked out of sync without Nicks and Joseph.
In two series against the Ravens, the first team netted minus-9 and 51 yards, the second drive producing a 29-yard field goal. In two series against the Patriots, the first team netted zero and 8 yards. In both games, quarterback Josh Freeman was under pressure, sacked four times in 14 total pass plays.
The first-team unit likely will see more playing time against Miami.
“Yeah, by plan,” Schiano said. “There's no reason other than the third game is the one we planned on playing them more. But again, it will be an individualized plan. There is no, 'We're all going to do this.' Now, it may appear that way, but some will be play count, some will be quarter, some will be situational.
"But yeah, they're going to play substantially more, those guys who have been playing only a handful of plays.”