Ankle and calf injuries, respectively, will sideline Bernard and Wells for at least four weeks. Wells’ ailment is not believed to be season-ending, per ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine (on Twitter), but the backup tackle will be shut down for a while.
Wells started in place of injured left tackle Donovan Smith in Week 2, but the ninth-year veteran went down during the Bucs’ win over the Saints. Following Wells’ exit, the Bucs turned to third-year UDFA Brandon Walton, who had spent last season on the team’s practice squad. A Florida Atlantic alum, Walton has only dressed for two NFL games. Sunday marked his first regular-season snaps on offense.
Wells joins center Ryan Jensen and guard Aaron Stinnie on IR. Smith, who missed Week 2 with an elbow injury, remains on the team’s active roster. Smith being unable to go in Week 3 against the Packers would mark yet another new starter for a Bucs offensive line that continues to absorb injury blows. Wells, 31, has been with the Bucs as a backup O-lineman since 2019.
Although the Bucs re-signed Bernard this offseason, the veteran running back has not been used on offense through two games. Leonard Fournette and rookie Rachaad White have played in front of Bernard, whom the Bucs signed as a possible passing-down option last year. Bernard caught 23 passes for just 123 yards last season. At 30, the former Bengals running back has seen time on special teams in his second Bucs slate.
Tampa Bay promoted linebacker Kenny Young and wide receiver Kaylon Geiger to its 53-man roster to replace Bernard and Wells, Stroud adds (via Twitter). The team also added offensive lineman Justin Skule to its practice squad. Skule spent the past three years with the 49ers. While he missed the 2021 season with an ACL tear, Skule started 12 games between the 2019 and ’20 seasons. The Vanderbilt product served as Joe Staley‘s primary replacement during the latter’s 2019 finale.