Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA — The Bucs will have to face Carolina on Sunday without both starting cornerbacks from last week’s loss at Buffalo.
Brent Grimes (shoulder) and Robert McClain (concussion) have been ruled out, making things that much harder for the league’s No. 31 pass defense.
That likely means Vernon Hargreaves returns at outside corner, Ryan Smith makes his second NFL start on the other side and Javien Elliott steps in as the nickel cornerback.
“I’m ready, whenever my name is called. It’s going to be much better than last time,” said Smith, who filled in for Grimes against Minnesota on Sept. 24 in a game that saw Case Keenum throw for 369 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-17 Vikings win. “Every day is a learning process. Every day gets better.”
Hargreaves, a 2016 first-round pick out of Florida, has struggled outside but played better at nickel against the Bills. Smith has barely played on defense since the Minnesota game, and Elliott doesn’t have a tackle this season, though he stepped in at nickel for the final four games last season and played well. “I prepare every week, whether I play or not. Preparation is key,” said Elliott, once a walk-on at Florida State. “I know it’s in God’s hands and part of God’s plan whether I play or not. As long as I keep him first, he’ll give me everything I need.”
Special teams captain Josh Robinson will miss a third straight game as he recovers from a concussion. DE Ryan Russell, who has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, was upgraded to full participation Friday and could play Sunday. He’s listed as questionable, along with DT Chris Baker (ankle) and QB Jameis Winston (shoulder), who are both expected to play. It has been a rough week for McClain.
The team’s late collapse last week at Buffalo, losing a seven-point lead with three minutes to play, started with a 44-yard pass play to WR
McClain had a helmet-tohelmet hit on the play, one that drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and gave him the concussion that will sideline him this weekend.
Now, on top of everything else, McClain has been fined $24,309 by the league. That represents more than half a game check — McClain earns $45,588 per week with a $775,000 salary this season.