TAMPA — The MRSA infection that sidelined Tampa Bay Buccaneers left guard Carl Nicks for the first two weeks of the season is back and threatening to take another chunk out of the Pro Bowler's career.
The Bucs learned Thursday that Nicks is suffering from what they said is a reoccurrence of the potentially lethal staph infection that developed on the outside of his left foot after a blister formed there during the preseason.
“This is a reoccurrence for Carl Nicks of the MRSA in the same place, same location,'' Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. “From everything we've been told, this does happen. It's why MRSA is a bacteria that's hard to treat.
“I would tell you that in talking to the infections disease specialist that has been treating Carl and working with us and other professionals, he also confirms and believes strongly that this is the same infection.''
MRSA is caused by a strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections and it has been plaguing the Bucs since the middle of the preseason.
That's when Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes were diagnosed with MRSA infections within days of each other. Nicks recovered relatively quickly from his first bout, but Tynes hasn't been as fortunate.
The 10-year veteran, who came to the Bucs as a free agent late in the offseason, has been lost for the season and continues to recover at home, where he has been receiving intravenous antibiotic treatments for the past six weeks.
The Bucs agreed to pay Tynes his $840,000 salary for this year, but their decision to place him on the Non-Football Injury list sparked a grievance, which was filed against the team last week by the NFL Players Association on Tynes' behalf.
The grievance seeks to have the NFI designation lifted, in part because it prohibits Tynes from receiving certain benefits, including a year of service time toward his pension.
Nicks, who said on Sept. 11 that he was “MRSA free,'' returned to the Bucs lineup for their Sept. 22 game at New England, but he has been “limited'' in practice this week, according to Bucs coach Greg Schiano.
Schiano was asked directly on Thursday if Nicks' practice status was the result of any kind of a reoccurrence of a previous medical problem, but Schiano would not offer specifics after saying the problem was with his foot.
“It's his foot and I'm going to kind of just leave it at that, just keep it vague on purpose for our opponents,'' Schiano said. “It just started to bother him so he tells our trainers and we look into it, and now we're doing all the tests you can do — MRIs and everything.''
Schiano said Nicks was “day-to-day,'' but with rediscovery of the MRSA infection it is likely Nicks will once again miss several weeks of action, which means another change in the Bucs' starting lineup.
Third-year pro Gabe Carimi replaced Nicks for the two games at the start of the season, but Carimi only returned last week from two-week bout with what he said was mononucleosis. That ordeal, Carimi said, cost him 20 pounds and robbed him of the conditioning level he reached during training camp, which could force the Bucs to make a more drastic lineup change for their game Sunday against Philadelphia.
One option is to have center Jeremy Zuttah move to left guard and insert backup Ted Larsen into Zuttah's spot at center. The Bucs used that alignment for nine games last year after Nicks was sidelined with a left big toe injury.
That injury might be the root cause of Nicks' MRSA problem. Because of complications with his big toe, a blister developed on the opposite side of Nicks' left foot. That blister later became infected with MRSA.
Nicks said he never had to go on intravenous antibiotics to fight his original MRSA infection, but treatment plans for this latest bout were not revealed by the team or anyone associated with Nicks on Thursday.
The Bucs twice had their training facility professional cleaned in an effort to rid it of any traits for MRSA after the initial discovery of the infection, but the team has been told a cleansing this time is not necessary. One reason a third cleansing is not considered necessary is because the MRSA infection that was diagnosed on Thursday was not discovered in an open wound, the team said.