TAMPA, Fla. — After trying to play through an injured right hamstring, the condition became too much for Mike Williams. Now, the Bucs’ pass-catching corps has received a setback.
Williams, who was awarded a six-year, $40.25 million contract extension in July, was placed on injured reserve Monday morning with the torn hamstring. Williams, 26, sustained the injury in a Week 4 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He has 22 catches for 216 yards with two touchdowns in six games this season, and Bucs coach Greg Schiano said surgery is required to correct the issue.
“It will be fine,” Schiano said. “But it’s going to be a little bit of a recovery, and so after getting all the information from the doctors, he was allowed to try (to play), and he did for two weeks. But he wasn’t really himself, and he couldn’t do the things he needs to do to be effective. So it’s time to get surgery.”
Williams, drafted in the fourth round, No. 101 overall in 2010 from Syracuse, had a career-high 996 yards receiving with nine touchdowns last season. He had full participation in practice Monday and Wednesday last week and was questionable going into last Thursday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. But Williams played and caught three passes for 20 yards.
Williams has started 52 of 54 career games and has 215 catches for 2,947 yards with 25 touchdowns. His receiving touchdowns are the fifth-most in Tampa Bay history, and his receiving yards are the eighth-most. Of receivers taken in the 2010 draft, he has the second-most receiving yards and is tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns.
Williams ranks second on the team this season in receiving yards, behind Vincent Jackson’s 623. His 40 targets are also second on the team, behind Jackson’s 90.
In Williams’ absence, wide receivers Tiquan Underwood and Chris Owusu are likely to become larger factors. Underwood, a fifth-year veteran, has four catches for 53 yards this season. Owusu, a second-year pro, has six catches for 55 yards this fall. Another option includes rookie Skye Dawson, who was signed to the active roster from the practice squad last Thursday and has one catch for 9 yards.
“Mike Williams is such a competitor,” Underwood said. “I love being in the huddle with him. From a numbers aspect of amount of catches and yards and touchdowns you get from a guy like that, basically we have Vincent Jackson ‘1’ and Mike Williams ‘1A.’ So as a collective group, we’re going to have to step in and shoulder the load.”
They must do it quickly. Sunday, Tampa Bay (0-7) plays at the Seattle Seahawks, a stiff test for a team that has lost 12 of its last 13 games under Schiano.
“Mike’s been banged up for the better part of the year, so I don’t think it’s going to be that much of a change,” Schiano said. “Now relative to what could have been, sure. Mike is a very fine player, but that’s part of life in the NFL. Next man gets the opportunity, and we’ll go with that.”