The Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered their first major injury in training camps for 2022 when they lost Iron Man position Ryan Jensen to a major knee injury that will likely end the season this week.
The team’s job is to find a replacement for it on the roster, and it comes down to two internal candidates.
“It will be between [Robert] Hennessy and Nick Leverett now,” Books coach Todd Bulls said Friday.
Combined, they have less than 100 regular season snapshots in between. Hainsey, Tampa Bay’s third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, saw excitement in nine games late last season.
Leverett, who was knocked out by Rice in the 2020 enlistment class, appeared in two games last season, with the majority of his shots coming as a replacement for Aaron Steny’s injury in the Boss’ Week 12 win over the Colts last year.
“They both played it,” Bulls said. “It’s going to be a tough fight. They’re both very smart, they’re both very tough. It’s better that it happens now more than halfway through the season so these guys can get some training reps and prepare for it. I also think one of them will be fine.”
The only starting position Tom Brady has worked with in Tampa, Jensen has started 81 consecutive games and has only missed a few shots in the past five seasons combined. He had interest as a free agent from both the Bengals and the Steelers but returned to Tampa for a three-year, $39 million deal, which included a guaranteed $23 million.
Interestingly enough, neither Haisey nor Leverett play a position in college. Hainsey was almost exclusively a right tackle for Notre Dame, while Leverett mostly played the left tackle and left keeper for the Owls.
If you’re a Bucs fan and need to be on the bright side, Brady has worked at a very high level in New England for many years with positions of similar or less impressive pedigree, from third-day picks like Dan Koppen, Bryan Stork and Ted Karras to unbelievable players like Ryan Wendell and David Andrews.
Although Bowles acknowledged that the team could seek help from outside the organization to bolster the position, the first prong to start assignments could go to Haisey, who saw limited activity at the center a year ago.
“His film studies are fantastic,” Bowles said of Hennessy. “He was a tough guy. He came from Notre Dame, he’s very smart, he can see the defences, he can help the midfielder in that way. He can help the offensive line. He’s hardworking at that and he wants to be good. There’s not a day he doesn’t come and watch the tape. So it’s just about putting him on tape and getting a chance to play.”