Bruce Arians plays Bucs starters with nothing at stake, maybe loses Mike Evans to knee injury

Frank Schwab
·3-min read

It should be obvious. When you can take a week off in the NFL, you do it.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had nothing really to play for in Week 17, with a wild-card spot locked up and no shot at a division title (though locking up the No. 5 seed did mean the Bucs would got the 7-9 Washington Football Team in the first round of the playoffs). Head coach Bruce Arians wanted to play starters for the pride of their seed, he said. And he might have lost one of his best players.

Star receiver Mike Evans dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter and stayed down. It appeared he injured his knee. Evans walked off the field, but went right to the locker room.

Then, to hammer home how reckless it was to play starters when the Buccaneers could have taken what amounts to a much-needed bye week, Tom Brady banged his hand on a helmet later in the drive and grabbed it. Brady stayed in the game.

Arians had an odd answer this past week when asked about playing starters.

"We're going to play to win,” Arians said. "Eleven and five, that's very rare. To have a chance to get to 11-5, keep that seeding – we want that seeding just for pride. We don't care who we play, it's more for pride. I'd probably have to beat some guys in the head with a stick to try and get them not to play anyway. I talked to them about it before and [they said], 'I'm playing.' We're going to practice and play like everything depends on it. It's not going to be an easy game, either."

“Pride” for a seed, or keeping a great receiver healthy for the playoffs? You make the call.

Hopefully Evans isn’t hurt too bad. It was reminiscent of Wes Welker blowing out his ACL for the Patriots in a Week 17 game when they had nothing to play for.

In a tough twist, Evans set a record right before the injury.

If Evans can’t play in wild-card weekend, or any other Buccaneers players get banged up playing a largely meaningless Week 17 game, it should be a warning to other coaches in future years. Just take the bye week. Don’t overthink it.

The Buccaneers won on Sunday, 44-27.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) is helped to his feet after getting injured against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Evans left the game. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is helped to his feet after getting injured against the Atlanta Falcons. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)

More from Yahoo Sports: