The 2016 second-round draft pick suffered his fourth shoulder dislocation against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and was placed on injured reserve, the team announced Wednesday. The injury will require more surgery.
Spence originally suffered a dislocation and torn labrum in Week 4 of last season, but he continued to play through it, wearing a neoprene harness designed to keep the shoulder in place. The dislocation happened again in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, and he popped it back into place on the field.
He underwent surgery this past offseason to correct it and spent the offseason rehabbing it while undergoing a stunning physical transformation that prompted teammate Gerald McCoy to predict a "breakout year."
Instead, Spence dislocated his shoulder in Week 3 against the Minnesota Vikings without the brace. He was wearing it against Buffalo.
"Noah's toughness is beyond question because most guys that have that injury are out three to four weeks right off the bat," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "It's the same shoulder that Noah had last year, [but] when it happened in Minnesota he went in and put a harness on and went right back in the game. Any time a guy has a shoulder that's coming out, they'll let you play in a harness until it starts coming out more often and then the doctors have to shut it down."
Spence's best moment of the season came against the Chicago Bears in Week 2, when his sack forced a fumble in a 29-7 win.
The injury came at a crucial moment for the Bucs, who are now 2-4 and just beginning divisional play. They play the Panthers on Sunday, followed by the New Orleans Saints.
Tampa Bay signed DE Darryl Tapp in a corresponding move. The Bucs also signed cornerback Deji Olatoye after Robert McClain entered the concussion protocol.