Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles knows not to do anything that would bother Tom Brady. And since it would bother Brady to not play in a meaningless Week 18 game, Brady and others starters will be playing.
“We can get better at a lot of things, so right now I’m planning on playing them,” Bowles said regarding playing his starters on Sunday at Atlanta. “We’ll see as the week goes forward, but we can get better at a lot of things that we need to work on, and we don’t need to take our foot off the gas.”
Bowles isn’t worrying about the possibility of injury.
“I mean, it’s football,” Bowles said. “You can’t play 16 games and then worry about the seventeenth. You can’t play three preseason games and 16 games and practice every day and say you may get hurt in the seventeenth game. You can get hurt the first week, you can get hurt in training camp. If you worry about that, you’re probably going to get hurt anyway. We signed up to play football and coach football, that’s what we’re going to do. Everybody that loves football, that loves to play, will play the game. Injuries are going to happen. That doesn’t mean it happens in Week 17, the playoff game or preseason. You’ve just got to coach it and you’ve got to play it. If you worry about injuries, you probably don’t need to be playing this sport.”
Bowles didn’t rule out pulling the starters at some point, however.
“It’s possible,” Bowles said. “Like I said, it’s early in the week. We haven’t made any decisions yet. We haven’t met on it, we haven’t talked about it, everything is on the table. We’ll talk about it and we’ll move forward from there.”
The starters would be pulled, of course, to protect them against injury. Under the reasoning expressed by Bowles for playing the starters at all, they should play for the full game.
But there’s definitely a balance to strike. Injuries can indeed happen. But some injuries are avoidable. Any injuries during a meaningless game that could be treated as an opportunity to rest and prepare for a playoff run would be far more unfortunate than injuries that happen at other times.