TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a third case of MRSA.
FOX Sports NFL Insider Alex Marvez confirmed Friday that rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks is the latest player to deal with the serious staph infection resistant to some antibiotics. Bucs general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano refused to identify the player during separate news conferences Friday, saying they were not at liberty to do so because of medical privacy laws.
But Banks, who was not listed on the Bucs’ injury report Wednesday and Thursday, did not participate in Friday’s session and is questionable for Sunday’s Week 6 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles at Raymond James Stadium, due to what the Bucs are calling an “illness.”
The team’s previous cases of the condition — kicker Lawrence Tynes (right foot) and guard Carl Nicks (left foot) — were diagnosed in August. The Bucs’ facility was cleaned twice after the findings, and no new cases of the condition had been reported before Friday.
On Thursday, it was revealed that a recurrence of MRSA had returned to Nicks’ foot. Nicks, 28, missed the Bucs’ first two games before making starts in Weeks 3 and 4. He had limited participation in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he did not participate Friday and is also listed as questionable for Sunday.
“It is something that obviously is very important to us,” Dominik said. “The player and health safety of our players is again of the utmost importance. It is something we have worked very strenuously with … going all the way back to even before August, but certainly post-August, when we had the first case, first two cases. And we have continued to follow those policies and procedures, and we are going to continue to find new policies that we are talking about even now to even further strengthen our situation.”
The team spent more than an hour Friday meeting with Dr. Deverick J. Anderson, co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network, an organization that has worked with the Bucs and the NFL Health and Safety Resources to prevent MRSA. Dominik said the affected player came forward Wednesday. The league, NFLPA offices and the player were contacted Thursday night, after the team had received confirmation that MRSA was present.
Banks, 24, was seen in the Bucs’ locker room Thursday afternoon laughing and joking with cornerback Darrelle Revis about high school football, seemingly with nothing wrong. He was taken in the second round, No. 43 overall, in April, and he has 10 tackles with one interception in four games.
“Medicine, as much as we’d like it to be an exact science, it’s not,” Schiano said. “The thing that I do feel, the organization is doing everything we possibly can. And it starts at the top with our ownership. Whatever we need, (they say), ‘Go do it. Do what’s best.’ When you have that kind of support from the top, we’ll get through this together. In all these kind of situations, you see your guys come together, their concern for each other.”
The Bucs continue to insist their facility is a safe place to work. Anderson said the Nicks and Tynes cases were not related to each other. Dominik said he is unaware of any other health issues with staff members in the building related to the MRSA cases involving the players.
Tynes was placed on the non-football injury list before the season, and the NFLPA has filed a grievance on his behalf in an attempt to place him on injured reserve. By going on IR, Tynes, who is being paid his salary, would receive another season toward retirement benefits.
Meanwhile, Anderson was unaware of all the specifics surrounding Nicks’ case. But speaking in generalities, he said it’s possible the player could need surgery to eliminate the infection, like others who contract MRSA. Anderson said Nicks’ infection had spread to the bone. Schiano said it was too soon to know if surgery would be required.
Players said they are moving forward with preparations for Philadelphia, even with the latest distraction in this short season. The team had just transitioned from cutting former franchise quarterback Josh Freeman on Oct. 3, following an ugly divorce after rookie Mike Glennon was named the starter Sept. 25.
“Everyone is real cautious with how they’re dealing with this matter,” Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson said. “They’re educated on it. We’re just doing a lot of stuff that we weren’t aware of to keep it away.
“We’ve been going through a lot as an organization, as a team. Everything we’re going through right now is definitely making us stronger.”
Said safety Dashon Goldson: “We’re pretty much educated about that. We’ll be able to focus on this team that’s coming in and playing this football game this weekend.”
As of now, there are no plans that would alter the scheduled start for the game between the Bucs and Eagles. Philadelphia is still set to travel Saturday. Dominik said there are no plans for further cleanings at the team facility, though he added that players will use disinfectant for their skin.
“We have also been in regular contact with the player representatives from Tampa Bay. We will reach out to the Philadelphia Eagles player representatives today and provide them with our best medical guidance and regular updates from the outside experts,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement. “This underscores the need for a League-wide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol. It also calls for improved accountability measures on health and safety issues by the NFL over the clubs.”
Dominik said that the Bucs began working with DICON three weeks ago, in addition to their work with the NFL and NFLPA. Speaking in hypotheticals — as to not name the player involved — Schiano said Rashaan Melvin and Deveron Carr are possibilities to replace any injury at cornerback.
“I think right now, it’s, ‘Hey, right now, we’ve got to get this thing gone,’ ” Schiano said. “Whatever that’s going to take, we’re going to do.”