Buccaneers S Cody Grimm was arguably the team's most productive rookie this season.
All of Grimm's promise came to a crashing halt during Tampa Bay's 17-10 loss against Baltimore when he sustained a potential season-ending injury after breaking his left ankle.
Bucs CB Aqib Talib intercepted Ravens QB Joe Flacco and started running toward the end zone in the second quarter. Talib ran into Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, who fell onto Grimm's ankle while attempting to make a tackle. Grimm was in immediate pain and had to be carted off the field.
"He's our starter," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "You lose a starter in a game, the guy is playing well for you, and now you have to go out there with a guy who played limited reps (Sabby Piscitelli) and the guy who didn't have as much of an opportunity to play this week. That's always going to be hurtful, so you have to make up for it."
Bucs players said they found it difficult to not think about Grimm after his injury.
Grimm became Tampa Bay's starter after Tanard Jackson was suspended for one year after violating the NFL's substances of abuse policy. Despite being a seventh-round draft pick, Grimm had become a solid starter.
"When T-Jack (Jackson) was suspended, Cody came in and we didn't miss a beat," Bucs S Sean Jones said. "He was doing a great job. It was definitely a tremendous blow, but during that time in the game, we had to keep moving. We're going to miss Cody the same way we miss T-Jack. Somebody else is going to have to step in."
While Piscitelli is the likely candidate to step in, he will have to insure Tampa Bay does not have the same mistakes it did against Baltimore.
Ravens TE Todd Heap caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Morris said the coverage was blown but would not say who missed their assignment. The Bucs also allowed WR Derrick Mason to score on a 10-yard TD reception while playing their Cover 2 defense.
"We just got to improve, come in next week and try to get a win against Atlanta," Jones said.
McCoy starting to heat up
Bucs rookie DT Gerald McCoy is starting to have an impact after a slow start.
McCoy had three tackles and two sacks against Baltimore. It is the second consecutive week McCoy has recorded a sack and it was the first multisack game of his career.
Despite his personal achievements, McCoy was unhappy after the game.
"It doesn't matter. I don't care," McCoy said. "I'll give all of that back for a W. That doesn't mean anything to me. I'm a team guy. Whatever we did up front, it wasn't enough to win. That's all that matters to me, getting a W."
Mason picks on Talib
Bucs opponents have not shied away from Talib, and Mason showed why during the first half.
Mason had seven receptions for 74 yards and one touchdown during the first half as Baltimore led 17-3 at halftime. Six of Mason's receptions were against Talib, while his other catch was a 10-yard touchdown against Tampa Bay's zone coverage.
"I think it just happens," Mason said. "You know, you read the defense and you go from there. We've got so many guys that are able to catch the ball, the defenses just have to try to pick and choose what they're going to stop."
There is one thing Bucs players said they were looking forward to Sunday.
Seeing Ray Lewis dance.
Tampa Bay's last visit to Baltimore was in 2002 and only Ronde Barber was on the team then. Most of Tampa Bay's young players grew up watching Lewis on TV but never saw his pregame dance in person.
As Baltimore's defense was introduced before Sunday's game, Lewis was the final player to come out of the smoking tunnel. All of Tampa Bay's players huddled to watch Lewis dance with fireworks in the background until he was done.
Crowder active on left side
Tim Crowder made his third start at left defensive end for the Bucs and made an immediate impact.
On second-and-9 from Baltimore's 49-yard line, Crowder sacked Flacco for a 5-yard loss in the first quarter.
DE Kyle Moore missed his third straight game with a sore shoulder and was among several Bucs inactives, including CB Elbert Mack, FB Erik Lorig, WR Preston Parker, QB Rudy Carpenter, T Will Barker, T Derek Hardman and DT Frank Okam.
Bucs G Davin Joseph sustained a foot injury in the first quarter and was replaced by Jeremy Zuttah. Joseph would not expand on his injury when asked after the game but did not wear a protective boot and could walk without crutches. ... Jones sacked Flacco in the third quarter, his first sack since Nov. 8, 2009, against Dallas when he played for Philadelphia. ... This was the second consecutive game Tampa Bay did not turn the ball over and the fourth time this season. ... Bucs TE Ryan Purvis made his first career start. ... Tampa Bay played 11 rookies against Baltimore, marking the sixth consecutive game the Bucs played at least 11 rookies.