An MRI confirmed the worst fears of the Buccaneers — veteran running back Earnest Graham is sidelined for the rest of the season because of a torn Achilles' tendon.
Graham, recently lauded by center Jeff Faine as the MVP of the Buccaneers, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his 2011 season as Tampa Bay heads into a bye week before preparing for a critical NFC South matchup at New Orleans.
Graham was injured while planting his right foot in the soft turf at London's Wembley Stadium in the opening quarter of Sunday's 24-18 setback against the Bears. He had started the last two games for the Bucs while featured back LeGarrette Blount recovers from a knee injury.
Blount may return following Tampa Bay's bye week in time to face New Orleans Nov. 6 at the Superdome. The Saints (5-2) lead the Bucs (4-3) and Falcons (4-3) by one game in the division as Tampa Bay seeks a season sweep of New Orleans.
At 31, Graham, is the second-oldest Buc behind cornerback Ronde Barber and he shredded the Saints for 109 yards on the ground in a 26-20 victory at Tampa this month.
For the season, Graham rushed for 206 yards and caught 26 passes for 163 yards, excelling as a third-down back before Blount was sidelined.
With Graham sidelined for the final three quarters and Blount inactive, the Bucs were unable to mount a credible ground attack against the Bears. Josh Freeman was intercepted four times and he has struggled this season when the Bucs fail to establish offensive balance.
Blount hurt his left knee at San Francisco in a 48-3 setback and the Bucs have classified the injury as a sprain. With a week off, Tampa Bay has extra time to add a running back to the roster before heading to New Orleans, where the Bucs have sprung upsets in their past two visits.
When Tampa Bay players and coaches return to the practice field this morning, the health of center Jeremy Zuttah (knee), safety Tanard Jackson (hamstring) and rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster (ankle) looms as a major concern for Coach Raheem Morris, who may get defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) back for the New Orleans game.
The Bucs waived long snapper Christian Yount, who signed three months ago and played in all seven games, filling in for injured Andrew Economos.