TAMPA, Florida — A bad season got a little more miserable for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday.
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will finish the year on injured reserve, missing the Buccaneers' final two games because of a sprained right knee.
"Of course you want to finish the games with your guys, but you have to look at the bigger picture, and that's my overall health," the fifth-year pro said after walking into a mostly empty locker room and motioning for reporters to follow him to a stall on the back wall.
"I think we have a lot of great — not good, great — ahead of us for this team, this organization," McCoy added. "A big part of that will be my health."
It's the third time since McCoy entered the NFL as the third overall pick in the 2010 draft that an injury has ended his season prematurely. He started all 16 games each of the past two seasons, making the Pro Bowl and setting himself up to become the league's highest-paid player at his position in October, when he signed a seven-year extension worth up to $98 million.
The deal boosted his salary to $20 million this season, when he continued to perform at a high level with 8 1-2 sacks — despite Tampa Bay's NFC-worst 2-12 record.
"He's done everything we've asked him to do," coach Lovie Smith said, adding that rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and veteran receiver Louis Murphy will join McCoy on injured reserve this week before the Bucs face the Green Bay Packers. "Great player. Face of the franchise for a reason. The future is so bright.
"We've been through a lot. We've been down here together," Smith added, using his hands to illustrate Tampa Bay's position in the standings. "It's going to be fun rising up together with him. We will rise up based on guys like him."
McCoy said the knee injury he suffered Sunday against Carolina was unrelated to one he played through the week before against Detroit. He remained down on the ground for a few minutes before being helped to his feet and refusing to leave the field on a cart.
"I wasn't about to get carted off and give thumbs up," McCoy said. "I'm OK. I can walk. If my leg didn't come off, I'm walking off the field."
Smith is closing in on the end of his first season of trying to turn around a franchise that will miss the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. The Bucs haven't won a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl. But McCoy, a team captain, has been everything Smith envisioned he'd be. "He was a great player on tape. When you get to see him up close and personal, and see how he is when you get to game day, it's more impressive," the coach said. "That's how you want superstars to be — like him. To put in the time like him, and deserve to play, and be a great player like that."
Seferian-Jenkins started nine games, but has been sidelined the past three weeks with a sore back. He finished with 21 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
Murphy was cut during preseason, rejoined the team in Week 4 and finished with 31 receptions for 380 yards and two touchdowns. He has a high-ankle sprain.
None of the players is expected to need surgery.
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