At least two Tampa Bay Buccaneers players are currently sidelined and being treated for MRSA, an often-painful and serious staph infection that can be resistant to antibiotics, the team confirmed to FOX Sports.
It is unclear where the players contracted this, but multiple sources told FOX Sports the Buccaneers had their facility scrubbed last weekend and will do the same this weekend when the team travels for Saturday night's road game against the Miami Dolphins. Players also were given a special soap to use.
The team confirmed the two infected players are Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks and kicker Lawrence Tynes. It said both are responding to treatment.
Head coach Greg Schiano has stated publicly that Nicks is dealing with an infected blister on his toe. There is no known timetable for Nicks' return. Tynes hasn't kicked in a preseason game.
NFLPA executive director for external affairs George Atallah tweeted, "We are aware of the health and safety issue in Tampa Bay and our Medical Director has been briefed. ... We are also looking into ensuring that the team met its obligation to inform the players of the situation in Tampa Bay."
A source said the Bucs discovered the MRSA outbreak while scrimmaging last week against New England. The Bucs, who were in New England, immediately ordered sanitization of team headquarters hoping to prevent more infection.
Bucs players and coaches were told about the MRSA outbreak by Schiano during a team meeting Monday, the source said. Bucs management also called the NFL to inform the league of the situation.
According to the Mayo Clinic's web site, MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infections are caused by a strain of staph bacteria that's become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections. MRSA can affect multiple parts of the body, including the bloodstream, and severe causes can be fatal.
Five St. Louis Rams players were affected by MRSA in 2003. MRSA was recovered from whirlpools and athletic tape as well as on 35 nasal swabs from players and staff members.
One of the major concerns with MRSA is that a person can be a carrier without showing outward symptoms. The danger of infection begins when MRSA enters the body, usually via a cut.
There was a league-wide outbreak of MRSA staph infections between 2006 and 2008 before NFL teams got a handle on it. A survey of 32 club physicians documented 33 players were stricken in that span.
There were six documented cases involving Cleveland Browns players. The Browns settled lawsuits filed by two of them (center LeCharles Bentley and wide receiver Joe Jurevicius) who claimed the franchise misrepresented the cleanliness of its facility. Bentley, who was an elite-level offensive lineman, never played again after contracting MRSA in 2006.
Kellen Winslow was another Browns player stricken by staph. Now with the New York Jets, Winslow showed a FOX Sports reporter the damage that MRSA caused. Winslow's right knee has become more square-shaped than oval after he said the infection ate away at his cartilage.
Winslow was suspended by the Browns for one game in 2008 after publically speaking out against the club for the way his infection was handled. Winslow said he felt the Browns treated him "like a piece of meat."
"I caught some heat because of that," Winslow told FOX Sports on Wednesday when told of the Bucs' outbreak. "But I still think it was the right thing to do because this had to do with player safety."
A Patriots spokesman declined comment about whether the franchise was concerned about its players contracting MRSA during their joint practices and preseason game against the Bucs.