Buccaneers reach deadline with injured WR Louis Murphy

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The Buccaneers have to make a difficult decision regarding the future of wide receiver Louis Murphy today. Depending on what decision they make, Murphy could be pushed into retirement.

Murphy has spent the entire season on the Physically Unable to Perform list recovering from last year’s season-ending knee injury, and today marks the 21st day since he was cleared to begin practicing again.

That means the window for deciding whether to place Murphy on the active roster or end his season by placing him on injured reserve has closed, but what to do with Murphy is not necessarily an open and shut case.

The problem is that Murphy suffered what Bucs coach Dirk Koetter described as a physical “setback’’ supposedly unrelated to the knee injury during his second day back on the field three weeks ago.

The Bucs have not provided any details regarding the nature of that setback because Murphy does not have to be included in their daily injury reports, but it’s believed he has not practiced since.

In fact, Koetter said last Friday that he is still not sure whether Murphy is well enough to begin practicing again soon, which could further complicate the Bucs decision.

The Bucs are clearly in need of a wide receiver, what with Vincent Jackson out for the season and now Russell Shepard nursing a hip injury suffered eight days ago in the loss to Oakland.

The thinking inside the organization is that Murphy could give the Bucs a boost, largely because he knows the offense. The question, though, is just how soon could Murphy actually give the Bucs that boost?

Murphy badly needed those 21 days of practice to get into shape following a year off to recover from the surgery he had last November to repair a torn ACL.

If indeed he has had to spend the past 21 days recovering from yet another injury he still may not be in shape and therefore may not be able to help the Bucs as hoped, either now or in the near future.

That might force the Bucs to place Murphy on IR, which just might result in the veteran deciding to call it a career. After all, he has contemplated such a move before.

Murphy said the rehab he had to go through to recover from his knee surgery was so difficult he often considered retiring but fought on because he wanted his career to end “on his terms.’’

Murphy may still have that option no matter the Bucs decision, but if he’s left to try to make a comeback at the age of 30 without having played in a year and a half, he might opt to not even bother.

Then again, he’s spent a year rehabbing the ACL and repeatedly, told the media in mid-October he was eager to play. No matter what, today is the day the team must make their decision.

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