TAMPA, Fla. — Quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Cameron Brate and linebacker Lavonte David did not practice on day three of Bucs' training camp. Head coach Todd Bowles said it was just a rest day for the veteran players, and they will return to the field soon.
That is not the case for center Ryan Jensen, however. Bowles announced that Jensen will miss significant time this season, after sustaining a knee injury on Thursday.
"Whether he'll be back later in the season – November or December – that depends on what they find in the knee, but he won't be available anytime soon," he said.
The Bucs have discussed signing a free agent center to step in for Jensen. For now, Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett will compete for the starting center position.
Tampa Bay drafted Hainsey out of Notre Dame in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He primarily played tackle in college but was moved to center when he joined the Bucs. He was Jensen's backup last season.
Leverett signed with the Bucs as a college free agent in 2020. Prior to coming to Tampa Bay, he played three seasons at North Carolina Central before transferring to Rice as a graduate.
"Both of them are very smart, both are very tough. It's better to happen now than in the middle of the season so these guys can get some practice reps and prepare for it. I think either one of them will be fine," Bowles said.
Hainsey expressed how difficult it was to see Jensen — a team leader — go down with an injury. However, he understands the opportunity that has been placed before him and wants to take advantage of it.
"I’m not Ryan Jensen – that’s not who I’m trying to be. I have to be myself. But that chip on his shoulder that he plays with, if I’m out there, I think I want to have a little bit of that myself because I owe that to him...," he said.
Leverett praised Hainsey's intelligence and how much his teammate has grown from his rookie season. He added that the two bonded over their competitiveness.
"That’s what makes us close because we are deep in our playbook, we go at it – we compete in a good way with each other to make each other better," he said.
The Bucs' first preseason game is Aug. 13 against the Miami Dolphins. Both Hainsey and Leverett will likely see game action at center in that contest.