It should be obvious. When you can take a week off in the NFL, you do it.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had nothing really to play for in Week 17, with a wild-card spot locked up and no shot at a division title (though locking up the No. 5 seed did mean the Bucs would got the 7-9 Washington Football Team in the first round of the playoffs). Head coach Bruce Arians wanted to play starters for the pride of their seed, he said. And he might have lost one of his best players.
Star receiver Mike Evans dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter and stayed down. It appeared he injured his knee. Evans walked off the field, but went right to the locker room.
Here is the Mike Evans left knee injury. pic.twitter.com/XdeXtvkk77
— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) January 3, 2021
WR Mike Evans is out for the remainder of the game (knee). pic.twitter.com/qJ70bN1197
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) January 3, 2021
Then, to hammer home how reckless it was to play starters when the Buccaneers could have taken what amounts to a much-needed bye week, Tom Brady banged his hand on a helmet later in the drive and grabbed it. Brady stayed in the game.
Arians had an odd answer this past week when asked about playing starters.
"We're going to play to win,” Arians said. "Eleven and five, that's very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5, keep that seeding – we want that seeding just for pride. We don't care who we play, it's more for pride. I'd probably have to beat some guys in the head with a stick to try and get them not to play anyway. I talked to them about it before and [they said], 'I'm playing.' We're going to practice and play like everything depends on it. It's not going to be an easy game, either."
“Pride” for a seed, or keeping a great receiver healthy for the playoffs? You make the call.
Hopefully Evans isn’t hurt too bad. It was reminiscent of Wes Welker blowing out his ACL for the Patriots in a Week 17 game when they had nothing to play for.
In a tough twist, Evans set a record right before the injury.
And there it is! Mike Evans is now the first player in NFL history to begin his career with seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. However, he is currently being looked at for a potential knee injury.
— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) January 3, 2021
If Evans can’t play in wild-card weekend, or any other Buccaneers players get banged up playing a largely meaningless Week 17 game, it should be a warning to other coaches in future years. Just take the bye week. Don’t overthink it.
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