Key Buccaneers Starter Returns to Practice Amid Injury

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles has Akiem Hicks back but will need to adjust things with a banged up secondary before a key game with New Orleans.

Injuries hit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hard this week, but the team received some good news on Saturday, December 3.

Defensive end Akiem Hicks returned to practice on Saturday, according to Greg Auman of FOX Sports, after the former Pro Bowler missed practice on Friday due to a foot injury. Hicks previously missed almost two months of action because of a foot injury in Week 2.

The Bucs have a 4-1 record with Hicks on the field, and he has 12 tackles this season. Tampa Bay’s defense already had a slew of key injuries for the Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints. That includes nose tackle Vita Vea (foot) who is expected to play after limited participation in practice all week.

Bucs Waiting on Banged up Secondary

Six Buccaneers defensive players appeared on the injury report and another six offensive players made the list due to injuries. Head coach Todd Bowles didn’t offer an overly promising outlook on those injuries.

“Everybody’s in play,” Bowles told reporters on Saturday. “Other than [Tristan] Wirfs, everybody else is in play.”

Wirfs sustained an ankle injury in Week 12 against the Cleveland Browns. Safeties Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), who didn’t practice for a third consecutive day, remain questionable for the Saints game, which Bowles clarified.

“Well, they’re not ruled out. We’re going to wait until [Monday], see if they can do something before the game, and we’ll make that decision at that time,” Bowles said.

Both Edwards and Winfield have produced two of the better seasons for the Bucs defense thus far. Edwards has 64 tackles, a sack, three pass deflections, and two interceptions — including a pick six against the Saints in Week 2. Winfield has 51 tackles, an interception, three sacks, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble.

Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) was limited at practice for a third consecutive day. Bowles said Murphy-Bunting will be a game-time decision.

With potentially three defensive backs out who have played major snaps, the Bucs could get some help with safety Logan Ryan coming back from injured reserve this week. Ryan, who sustained a foot fracture in Week 4, practiced this week, but Bowles couldn’t confirm the plan for Ryan against the Saints.

“He had no setbacks, hopefully,” Bowles said. “He’s been working hard, doing a little more each day. We’ve just got to see how much he can do.”

“We’ll see how the week[end] progresses, if he were to go out there at all,” Bowles added. “If he goes out there, we’ll see how he feels at the time. I can’t make that decision right now.”

Ryan has 10 tackles, an interception, and two pass deflections this season.

Bucs Could Get Boost on Offense

Tampa Bay could get a little help on offense with players returning from injury or illness.

Tight end Cameron Brate practiced on Saturday after missing two practices due to illness. Brate has 16 catches for 137 yards in seven games played.

“He looked a little better. He was sick, so he looked a little better today,” Bowles said. “[We’ve] got to get some more fluids in him, see how he feels on [Monday].”

The Bucs could also have wide receiver Russell Gage (hamstring) back on the field against the Saints. Gage has 29 receptions for 231 yards and a touchdown this season.

Guards Luke Goedeke (foot) and Nick Leverett (shoulder) both practiced on Saturday. Leverett filled in for Goedeke during his injury.

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