The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are indeed dealing with another case of MRSA — Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacterial infection– as Sports Talk Florida reported  Friday shortly after 12 p.m.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik confirmed the news in a press conference at the team headquarters soon after. “We’re here today to obviously report that we did have a third case of MRSA within this organization.”
Dominik would not state the name of the player, but NFL.com has reported that it is rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks, who was absent from Friday’s practice due to an ‘illness’ after participating in previous practices this week. He was not listed on the injury report the previous two days.
Banks is the third Bucs player to test positive for the infection. Less than 24 hours ago prior, teammate Carl Nicks discovered a recurrence of the infection, which is very difficult to treat due to the fact that it does not respond to traditional antibiotics.
The third player, Lawrence Tynes, is still receiving antibiotic treatment using a peripherally inserted central catheter, also known as a PICC line. Both he and Nicks developed infections in August. Nicks was cleared to resume practicing after roughly three weeks of antibiotics.
On Wednesday Banks came to the training staff with concerns. A culture was performed, with partial confirmation of the result coming late Thursday night.
“We had a player actually come to our doctors and had a concern and quite frankly, it’s very smart by them. We appreciated it, we pointed that out. Early detection is by far the most preventive ways to limit the control of the situation. This player did a good job of alerting us,” Dominik said.
Dr. Deverick Anderson, co-director of the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON), was flown in to assess the situation and talk to players and staff members about their concerns.
“We’re trying to stay in front of this and inform everybody as soon as we have information. That’s our goal here, because I think that helps in the outcome,” Dominik said.
“It’s been something that is obviously very important to us, the player health and safety of our players is again of the upmost importance to us and it’s been something we’ve worked very strenuously with our training staff, our equipment staff, a lot of policies and procedures that we’ve put in place, going back all the way to before August and certainly post-August, when we had the first two cases.”
“We continue to follow those policies and procedures and we’re going to continue to find new policies that we’re talking about even now, to even further strengthen our situation.”
Anderson, who was brought in a month ago to evaluate the team’s facilities, said that he does not believe the first two cases of MRSA with Nicks and Tynes are related and that it is too early to tell with the third.
“We don’t know about the third one yet, we still need additional information about the specific MRSA that we are dealing with, but we actually, definitively say that the first two cases were really not related to each other,” Anderson said, noting that the strains of the bacteria are determined based on how they respond to specific antibiotics.
He said that based on his evaluations from one month ago and currently, he feels the Bucs do provide a safe work environment for players and staff members and that the infections are due to the nature of football, where this is a significant amount of skin-to-skin contact and skin breakdown.
“Based on my observations, I didn’t think there was anything very high risk. I think football in-and-of itself was a known risk factor for MRSA and MRSA infection in general. So, that the fact that a case, or even two, and now three cases occurred does not necessarily in-and-of itself mean that this is any higher risk than any other football location in the country.”
When asked why the Bucs are the only organization among 32 teams in the league dealing with the issue, he responded, “I think that’s a great question and I don’t think we know the answer to that question, to be perfectly honest.”
The NFLPA is currently investigating the protocol in which the Bucs handled Lawrence Tynes’ diagnosis and placement on the non-football injury list.
“We have been involved in an ongoing review of the MRSA incidents in Tampa Bay initiated by the concerns we had about the manner in which team officials responded to these cases,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said in a statement Friday.
“We advised the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that an outside expert should be brought in to assess the situation and we are pleased with their decision to take that recommendation. We have also been in regular contact with the player representatives from Tampa Bay. We will reach out to the Philadelphia Eagles player representatives today and provide them with our best medical guidance and regular updates from the outside experts.”
“This underscores the need for a League-wide, comprehensive and standardized infectious disease protocol. It also calls for improved accountability measures on health and safety issues by the NFL over the clubs.”
The Bucs hired a specialized cleaning company to come in and sanitize the facilities twice in August. Team officials said there are no plans to clean it a third time, nor are there plans to culture every player and staff member, despite speculation that a member of the training staff is fighting an infection .
“I am not aware of anybody in this building that would be related to what’s going with the MRSA cases that we have, no,” Dominik said.
Practice Friday was postponed nearly 90 minutes. Players were given an opportunity to ask Anderson questions, which alleviated some concerns.
“That’s one thing that we learned today, talking with one of the best specialists in this country, how common it actually is,” wide receiver Vincent Jackson told reporters.
“It’s like a germ, like anything else, it’s around in any environment, so the fact that we’ve had some cases here, it can be cured, they can obviously be fixed, there’s medicine to address it and we’re using the best people at our disposal. The guys are confident that if anything comes up, we’re going to address it. I don’t think it’s a scare at all.”
Safety Dashon Goldson added, “Nobody’s really nervous or scared about the MRSA, we’re pretty much educated on that and we’re good. We’re focused on this team that’s coming in and playing this football game this weekend.”