Bucs coach Todd Bowles: Aaron Stinnie has torn knee ligaments

TAMPA — Todd Bowles confirmed Sunday that offensive guard Aaron Stinnie tore his left ACL and MCL in Saturday night’s preseason loss to the Titans, virtually assuring he’ll miss the season.

On the uplifting side for the Bucs, Bowles reaffirmed that he expects quarterback Tom Brady back “this week, early” following an absence of more than 10 days for personal reasons. Bowles said no decision had been made on whether Brady would play in next weekend’s preseason finale at Indianapolis.

“Like I said a week and a half ago, I said he’ll be back this week,” Bowles said via Zoom. “That hasn’t changed. We expect him back this week.”

Stinnie’s injury is the second major one to a now-decimated unit.

Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen went down with a knee injury the second day of training camp; his status for 2022 remains uncertain. All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs is nursing a strained oblique suffered Thursday during a joint practice with the Titans. Bowles said Wirfs remained day-to-day but “it shouldn’t be much of a concern.”

For now, rookie Luke Goedeke — who struggled mightily in Saturday’s 13-3 loss — and third-year backup Nick Leverett (two career games) represent the Bucs’ two best options at left guard, though Bowles indicated the team could bring in a free agent.

“We don’t mind playing rookies; we’ve been playing rookies since we’ve been here,” Bowles said. “It’s just a matter of them getting in-game experience. So we’re comfortable with the guys we have right now, but if we can find an option that’s out there that fits us, we’ll look at it.”

The Bucs must trim their roster from 85 to 80 players by Tuesday afternoon. Moving Stinnie to injured reserve, as expected, would account for one of those moves. The Bucs made two other moves Sunday, waiving safety Troy Warner and releasing receiver Vyncint Smith.

The only other guard options on the roster include practice-squad veteran John Molchon and third-year reserve Sadarius Hutcherson, who tore an ACL in the 2021 preseason opener. Hutcherson played sparingly Saturday.

“Anytime you lose depth at any position it’s a concern, but we’ve got guys that can play,” Bowles said.

“Unfortunate things happen in preseason. Obviously, you can’t help the injuries, but we can’t afford to get any more hurt down there. I think we still have enough right now, but we’re going to be thin in the depth department.”

Odds and ends

• Bowles said he wanted starting tailback Leonard Fournette to play Saturday to get him acclimated to contact before the regular season. Fournette had 20 yards on five carries and two short receptions. “(Tailbacks) should get bounced around a little bit because they don’t get hit below the waist in practice,” said Bowles, who hadn’t determined if Fournette would play in the final preseason game. “So it was important to get some bangs and get some knocked-arounds.”

• Bowles said free-agent Deadrin Senat, a former USF standout trying to earn a roster spot as the No. 3 nose tackle, has been “a pleasant surprise.” Senat had five tackles and a half-sack against the Titans. “Again, it comes down to a numbers game,” Bowles said. “We’ve got to see how he compares to the other guys at the other positions, but I think he represented himself well, and I was very pleased with the way he played (Saturday) night.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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