While his name swirls around the rumor mill as a potential deadline target, Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard will be missing Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans.

The Bucs have ruled out the former first-round pick due to a hamstring injury.

While Howard is playing more snaps than ever before so far this season, much of his work has been as a blocker in new head coach Bruce Arians' offense. He's getting fewer targets as a pass-catcher, and has struggled with drops when he has gotten his rare chances as a receiver.

Howard's puzzling usage has led many to assume him to be a popular trade-deadline target for teams who might want to feature him more as a pass-catcher. A recent report from MMQB's Albert Breer said the Bucs had already turned down the New England Patriots' interest in the former Alabama star.

Howard's absence from practice this week led many to believe the development may be tied to the trade rumors, as if the Bucs might be preserving him from injury ahead of the trade deadline. That's nothing more than speculation and conjecture at this point, as the Bucs have made it clear they have no plans to trade Howard, and in fact hope to continue to increase his involvement in the offense.