TAMPA, Fla. — Lovie Smith wasn’t in a mood to say much of anything about his struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers, one of three NFL teams that remain winless.
Injuries were off limits for discussion Monday, as were potential changes the coach may be considering in the aftermath of a 42-point loss to NFC South rival Atlanta.
Quarterback Josh McCown sprained the thumb on his throwing hand during last Thursday night’s debacle, however Smith isn’t ready to answer questions about the severity of the injury, whether second-year pro Mike Glennon will make his first start of the season this week at Pittsburgh, or if there could be other lineup changes unrelated to injuries.
“He’s getting better,” Smith said of McCown, who’s thrown twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdown passes (two) in losses to Carolina, St. Louis and the Falcons, adding that he’ll have more to say about a lengthy injury list that includes defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson, linebacker Mason Foster and running back Doug Martin on Wednesday.
McCoy (broken left hand), Johnson (ankle), Foster (shoulder) and Martin (knee) all sat out against Atlanta but are hopeful of returning soon.
“I’m not going to talk about injuries when no other team in the league is on Monday. ... We are getting guys back, which we need,” the coach said. “We’re optimistic. Sometimes things are not quite as bad as they’re portrayed.”
Glennon started 13 games a rookie after being drafted by former coach Greg Schiano in the third round in 2013, completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
The Bucs went 4-9 in those games, but the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Glennon never really had an opportunity to earn the No. 1 job after Schiano and former General Manager Mark Dominik were fired last December and replaced by Smith and new General Manager Jason Licht.
Signing McCown to a two-year, $10 million was one of Tampa Bay’s top priorities in free agency, and Smith immediately declared the 35-year-old career backup who’s played for six teams in 11 seasons the starter.
McCown was injured when he banged his thumb on an Atlanta player’s helmet while throwing an incompletion. Before leaving the game late in the second quarter, he completed 5-of-12 passes for 58 yards, no touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a Falcons touchdown.
Glennon relieved him and went 17-of-24 for 121 yards, no interceptions, and a late touchdown that cut into a 56-0 deficit.
The following day, Smith reiterated that McCown, who threw 13 TD passes and just one interception while filling in eight games for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago, is still his quarterback.
“Josh is our starter. We’re looking at one game right now. It would be simple if Josh was the only guy to play bad,” Smith said. “It seems like that’s the only guy I’m asked about: ‘Is Josh your starter?’ You could ask that about quite a few people, starting with me. Am I still the head coach based off of that effort (in Atlanta)? But a little bit more goes into it than that.”
Smith also was tight-lipped about potential changes that may be planned. The team practiced Monday after having the weekend off, getting a headstart on preparing for the Steelers (2-1).
“When you get beat that bad, you need to make changes,” the coach said. “Maybe that’s personnel, maybe it’s not. You’re looking at all areas when you feel like you need to go another direction.”