The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began their final week of the regular season with two veteran players back in the mix. Before practice on Wednesday, punter Bradley Pinion was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list and guard Aaron Stinnie was designated to return to practice. Pinion was placed on the COVID list on December 31 and Stinnie has been on injured reserve since December 1.
Pinion's activation does not necessarily mean he is ready to return to action, however. Prior to being placed on the COVID list he had already missed the Buccaneers Week 16 game at Carolina due to a right hip injury. Second-year player Sterling Hofrichter, who is on the Bucs' practice squad, has handled the punting duties in the last two games after being elevated to the active roster.
Pinion is in his third season as Tampa Bay's punter. This year, he has appeared in 14 games and has compiled a gross punting average of 42.4 yards and a net average of 38.5 yards. He has downed 23 kicks inside the 20 versus just two touchbacks and was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week One. Pinion is also one of the NFL's best kickoff men, this year forcing a touchback on 82.7% of his kicks.
Stinnie served as the team's primary reserve at the interior line positions for the first 10 games of the season, and then made his first career regular season start in Week 12 at Indianapolis. Stinnie was filling in for injured left guard Ali Marpet in that contest, but he left the game early with a knee sprain and was placed on injured reserve three days later.
The Colts' game was not Stinnie's first career start overall. He stepped in last season at right guard for the final three games of the playoffs, including Super Bowl LV, after Alex Cappa suffered an ankle injury in the Wild Card round. Stinnie's strong performance in that playoff run made him a candidate to start again in 2021 but Cappa ultimately held onto his job. In total, he has played in 17 regular season games with the Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans.
The activation of Pinion puts the Buccaneers' roster back at the 53-man limit. Stinnie does not currently count against the active roster and has a three-week window in which he can practice with the team and potentially be activated at any point.