The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are back to full strength at inside linebacker after activating second-year player K.J. Britt from injured reserve on Saturday. That resets the depth chart at that position to what it was on opening day, with Britt and rookie Olakunle Fatukasi backing up starters Lavonte David and Devin White.
The Buccaneers did not have to make a corresponding move, as they had an open spot on the 53-man roster following the waiver of wide receiver Jaelon Darden on Tuesday. However, the team also elevated wide receiver Deven Thompkins and safety Nolan Turner from the practice squad on Saturday, as well. Britt, Thompkins and Turner are all eligible to play on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, giving the Bucs a 55-man roster from which to choose 48 active players for the game.
Britt is the fourth player the Buccaneers have activated after a stint on injured reserve this year, following tackle Josh Wells in Week Seven, running back Giovani Bernard in Week 12 and safety Logan Ryan in Week 14. Britt was designated for return on Wednesday, and like the three before him, was activated at the end of the same week in which he returned to practice. Each team is allowed to designate up to eight players to return from reserve lists during the regular season.
With White and David combining to miss just one defensive snap so far this season – that one by David last week – Britt was limited to special teams work before his injury, but he was one of the team's most active players in that phase of the game. Before suffering an ankle injury at Carolina in Week Seven, Britt had been on the field for 79% of the Bucs' special teams snaps and had contributed three kick-coverage stops. A fifth-round pick out of Auburn in 2021, Britt played in all 17 games of his rookie season and registered seven tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and one pass breakup on defense. He also had five special teams tackles.
The NFL introduced the elevation option in 2020, which allows teams to activate up to two players from their practice squad for each game. After the game, elevated players automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers. Each individual player may be elevated a maximum of three times during the regular season. This is the second elevation for Thompkins and the third for Turner.
Turner joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson in the spring. In addition to his two previous elevations, Turner also spent four weeks on the active roster and has seen action in four games so far this season, with all of his work on special teams. The Buccaneers are likely to be without their two starting safeties for the second straight week as both Mike Edwards (hamstring) and Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) were listed as doubtful for the Week 14 game in San Francisco on Friday's injury report.
Thompkins also signed with the Buccaneers after going undrafted this past offseason. The Utah State product returned four kickoffs and one punt during the preseason and could be in the mix to fill one or both of those jobs following the release of Darden. Thompkins was also elevated from the practice squad in Week Five but was then named a game day inactive against Atlanta.