The Buccaneers didn't just lose against the Browns on Sunday; they also lost All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs to what looked like a serious leg injury. They did not, however, lose the star offensive lineman for the remainder of the 2022 season. After being carted off against Cleveland, Wirfs is expected to miss between three and four weeks with an ankle issue, per NFL Media, meaning he's likely to return before the start of the playoffs as Tampa Bay looks to keep control of the NFC South.
Wirfs was hurt on a play in which Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah attempted to hurdle running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn while pressuring Tom Brady. Afterward, players were visibly affected by his departure, and even more outspoken about his expected absence following the loss.
"It's awful," Brady told reporters. "It's awful for us. It's awful for him. He's a great player for us. The other guys ... are going to have to do a good job, but it's hard to replace him." Coach Todd Bowles echoed the sentiments, calling Wirfs' injury "a tragedy."
Spotted wearing a walking boot in the post-game locker room, Wirfs will tentatively be replaced by backup right tackle Josh Wells. He's just the latest in a growing list of veteran Bucs starters to go down this year. Tampa Bay lost Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen and potential starting guard Aaron Stinnie to serious knee injuries in training camp. Guard Luke Goedeke is also battling a foot injury.
A three-week absence would allow Wirfs to return for Week 16 against the Cardinals, while a four-week rehab would make him eligible for Week 17 against the Panthers. If the Bucs determine he needs four weeks to recover, it's possible he could be moved to injured reserve, which would guarantee a four-game absence but open an additional roster spot.