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By By RICK STROUD
Published November 19, 2004
TAMPA - Nobody will ever doubt the physical ability of Bucs defensive tackle Anthony McFarland.
His availability is another matter.
McFarland, who signed a 6-year, $31.25-million contract last year, will miss the remainder of the season and was placed on injured reserve due to a torn right triceps tendon.
The 6-foot, 300-pound former No. 1 pick from LSU has missed playing time due to injuries in three of the past four seasons. He missed nine weeks, including three playoff games, with a broken foot and fractured forearm during the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl run. McFarland sat out two games with a knee strain in 2001.
The third-highest paid player on the team behind Derrick Brooks and Brad Johnson, McFarland is the chief financial reason the Bucs were forced to part ways with seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp this offseason.
McFarland, 26, was hurt during a screen pass in the first quarter of the Bucs' 34-31 victory over Kansas City two weeks ago. He had been listed as questionable on the injury report before sitting out of last week's 24-14 loss at Atlanta with what was described as a triceps strain.
But on Thursday, McFarland flew to Birmingham, Ala., to seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who confirmed the injury will require surgery followed by at least six weeks of rehabilitation.
"I mean, you're obviously disappointed," McFarland said. "You realize when you get ready to play this game that injury is a part of it. I'm just a little bit unfortunate to have some. But it's just a part of the game. That's what we signed up for. You can't sign up for all the good things unless you accept the bad ones. So I'll accept it, deal with it and move on."
McFarland is the 12th Bucs player to land on injured reserve this season, eclipsing last year's total of 11 players. More devastating to the Bucs is how hard those injuries have hit the defensive tackle position.
McFarland's trip to the IR comes less than a month after defensive tackles Ellis Wyms and Damian Gregory suffered season-ending injuries. The players left at that position are starting nosetackle Chartric Darby, free agent pickup Chidi Ahanotu, converted defensive end Dewayne White and rookie practice squad call up Jon Bradley.
"It's been rough. Fortunately, I've remained healthy," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "That's the way it goes, man. That's the way it is. But it's been damn good to see some of the guys come in and take advantage of their opportunities. Hopefully, in the long run, it will be better for the Buccaneers. But it has not been a lot of fun."
The Bucs' decision to make McFarland one of the NFL's highest-paid defensive tackles, a deal that included a $9.5-million signing bonus, led to the departure of Sapp, who became a free agent at the end of 2003.
Sapp, the team's second all-time sack leader behind Lee Roy Selmon with 77, missed only four games in his nine-year career with the Bucs.
McFarland interrupted a question regarding his durability in a conference call Thursday when asked if he worried his career would be tainted by injuries.
"Not at all, not one bit," McFarland said. "The one thing I know and I think everybody knows (is) I know how to play this game of football. I've played at a very high level. It's unfortunate that I've had a couple of injuries, but sometimes you can't control that. But when I'm on the field, I play the game at a very high level. You don't have to ask me that. Just ask around the NFL and I think that speaks for itself."
McFarland has played in all 16 games twice in his career - in 2000, his first year as a starter when he posted a personal-best 6.5 sacks and 65 tackles, and again last season, when his sack total slumped to 2.5.
He was off to a good start through eight games this season, with 28 tackles and three sacks, which is tied for third on the team.
McFarland said he was uncertain when he left the game against Kansas City that his injury was serious.
"Nah, I really didn't know," McFarland said. "That's why I listened to the doctors and checked them out. Then you go for a second opinion. Like I said, when the second opinion matches the first one, you pretty much know you've got the right opinion.
"I feel very, very fortunate to play this game. It's unfortunate that I've had a couple injuries. It's not necessarily that I feel snakebit, I truly believe I know how to play this game and play it very well. I've just had a couple setbacks. That's the way I look at it. We'll take care of it, get it fixed and line up again. That's part of the game, you know?"
Times staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.
[Last modified November 18, 2004, 23:59:17]