The Buffalo Bills responded with a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the home opener, but not without a price. What seems to be a recurring issue the past few years, four players left the game with injuries Sunday afternoon.
Going down in the first half were right tackle Brad Butler (knee), tight end Shawn Nelson (shoulder) and cornerback Leodis McKelvin (ankle). Late in the third quarter, tight end Derek Schouman hurt his right knee while catching a short pass.
"Both Derek and Brad have knees and we're just going to have to wait for further tests," coach Dick Jauron said after the game. "Leodis was an ankle and Shawn with a shoulder. They are all going to need a little time to evaluate, but that was not good. We were down to one tight end."
Until both Nelson and Schouman are re-evaluated this week, Derek Fine is the only healthy tight end on the roster. The suddenly thin depth might force the coaching staff to call up Jonathan Stupar from the practice squad for the second time this season. In Week 1, Stupar was promoted to the active roster to provide insurance at the position as Fine recovered from a preseason hamstring injury.
The injuries couldn't have come at a worse time for the Bills as Nelson and Schouman are finding productive roles in the offense.
In the opening game against the Patriots, Nelson had two receptions for 13 yards including a touchdown pass that put the Bills on the board early. Before going down in the second quarter Sunday, Nelson displayed the type of athleticism the team saw when they drafted the 6-5, 240 pound rookie from Southern Mississippi.
Sunday out of the no huddle, he caught a short pass from Edwards at the Tampa Bay 22 yard line and charged ahead 13 yards. Three plays later, Rian Lindell converted a 31-yard field goal extending the Bills lead to 17-0.
Schouman left the game with 1:16 remaining in the third quarter while catching a six-yard pass and needed to be taken off the field on a cart. His six receptions for 62 yards were both career-highs. A chunk of those came on a 27 yard completion across the middle just before halftime.
"It was what the defense was giving us (with) that type of look," Schouman said. "I just do what I'm supposed to do and run the route and if he throws it to me, catch it and do what I can."
He added that he doesn't recall how the injury happened, but is optimistic for a quick recovery.
"I don't really remember. My foot just kind of got caught in the ground. I really don't even know it's just kind of all blurry when you are out there," he said. "It feels fine. It's just a little swollen but it will be all right. I can't wait to get healthy and get going again."
Quarterback Trent Edwards said a replacement will have big shoes to fill in Schouman's absence.
"I went and spoke with Derek and I'm not going to comment on his injury status, but he still seemed upbeat and seemed positive," said Edwards. "I did get five or six balls to him (Sunday) and that's going to be a tough loss we're going to need to fill in that void."
With a minute remaining in the first half, right tackle Butler suffered a knee injury as quarterback Trent Edwards scrambled around left end for a 20-yard gain. Attempting to strip the ball from Edwards, Buccaneers defensive lineman Stylez White rolled into the back of Butler's legs. After not being able to put much weight on his right leg as he was helped off the field by trainers, Butler was carted to the locker room.
Jonathan Scott replaced Butler at right tackle for the remainder of the game. He assessed his performance by the team's first notch in the win column.
"My heart was beating as soon as I released from the line," Scott said. "It's been popping since and I'm excited to be a part of this offensive unit. I can't be any happier, it's a great feeling."
Originally drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round (141st overall) of the 2006 NFL draft, Scott was signed to Bills 53-man roster on December 18, 2008. The severity of Butler's knee injury is still not known, so it remains to be seen whether his status puts Scott in the starting lineup for this coming Sunday.
With an already young and relatively inexperienced offensive line at three positions, it will be important to maintain the success on the ground seen the past two weeks. Rookie guard Eric Wood doesn't foresee a drop off with plugging in Scott at the tackle spot.
"It went well and I had little bit of work with him in the preseason," Wood said. "When they kept me in there a little bit longer, I got a lot of work with Jonathan Scott in the preseason games and practice as well. We've had a little work together, but Jonathan is a heck of a ball player and I have fun working with him."
After Tampa Bay running back Carnell Williams scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining in first half, McKelvin was spotted limping off the field.
"I never think the worst, so we'll wait and see what happens," Jauron said.