Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans hopes to be closer to 100% against New Orleans Saints on Sunday

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans might have suffered a hyperextended left knee that forced him to head straight to the hospital for an MRI in Week 17, but the three-time Pro Bowler said he’s hopeful he can go into Sunday’s divisional playoff against the New Orleans Saints “closer to 100 percent.”

Evans gutted out a 119-yard performance in the Bucs’ wild-card win over Washington on Saturday.

“God is good,” Evans said. “I’m happy. I dodged a bullet there with the hyperextension. Training staff did a great job. Got a lot of rest. A lot of praying. And it worked out for me. I’m feeling fresher. Hopefully I can go into this game closer to 100 percent.”

Evans hyperextended his left knee just one play after becoming the first player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons. Last year, Evans became just the second player to record 1,000 receiving yards in his first six seasons, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.

“It was painful,” Evans said. “I had a wide-open touchdown. I felt my leg slip a little bit, but I was just focused on the ball. I felt a pinch, but I was just trying to focus on catching the ball. It was tough. I didn’t make the play. And then I was upset with myself that I didn’t catch the ball, so I was just trying to walk off real fast and then I felt it, it was in pretty bad condition.”

He said quarterback Tom Brady came to him right away, believing he knew what happened.

“He was like, ‘Did you hyperextend it?'” Evans said. “And I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what it was. But it was painful. The swelling has gone down tremendously.”

After the MRI revealed no structural damage, Evans did pool workouts. Then also used a “game-ready machine,” which combines compression and cold to help accelerate healing. He got treatment at the Bucs’ facility and Tom Brady’s TB12 Sports facility before leading the Bucs to a franchise postseason-record 119 receiving yards against Washington. It was also the Bucs’ first playoff win since they won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.

“It meant a lot. I haven’t been to the playoffs — it was my first time, first game in the playoffs. I was excited to play,” Evans said. “It just meant a lot to be out there and to try to make plays to help my team win. The goal is to do enough each week to play the next week, so that’s what we’re doing this week.”

None of it came as a surprise to fellow Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin, who has been a big brother and role model to Godwin since joining him in Tampa Bay in 2017.

“It was very impressive,” Godwin said. “Honestly, being here for four years now and seeing Mike work and seeing the kind of guy he is, I wasn’t particularly shocked. He’s a very tough guy, he’s a fierce competitor and I knew there wasn’t going to be much that was going to be able to stop him from playing in his first playoff game.”

While Evans didn’t have much time to soak up the achievement of making history and helping lead the Bucs to their first playoff appearance since 2007, he did hear from some eager well-wishers: NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

“That’s awesome — I’ll never be too big to not appreciate that,” Evans said. “Like [those are] some of my childhood heroes and they’re paying homage and showing love to me. It means a lot.

“Randy — he didn’t reach out to me this time, [but] last year he did. He doesn’t have to. I know Randy — he’s a great guy, a hell of a player and one of the best to ever do it. It is an awesome record and I’m proud of it.”

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