The last time wide receiver Josh Huff touched the football during a game, it was to throw a pass. That pass, which was intended for then-Philadelphia Eagles teammate Jordan Matthews, fell incomplete in the fourth quarter of an overtime loss to Dallas nearly six weeks ago. Suffice it to say that Huff has been itching to get back on the field.
"I haven't been out there with my teammates in a month, so I'm excited to get back out and get things going again."
WATCH: THURSDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCES
That October 30 contest against the Cowboys was Huff's last with the Eagles, who drafted him in the third round in 2014. He was released the following week after an off-the-field incident, and later signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their practice squad. A promotion to the Buccaneers' active roster seemed imminent weeks ago, but Huff suffered an injury on the practice field and needed time to recover.
After Cecil Shorts suffered a season-ending knee injury and Adam Humphries sustained a concussion in the Bucs' win at San Diego on Sunday, Huff got that promotion and is almost certain to be in action this coming weekend against New Orleans. If Humphries is not cleared before Sunday, Huff would be one of only four healthy wide receivers on the roster. The Buccaneers would then find out what they have in the 5-11, 206-pound pass-catcher with good speed and shifty open-field moves.
"Well we're going to find out, aren't we?" said Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken. "It looked like a few weeks ago we might be able to get him up and he had a little bit of a setback. But we're excited and we're going to find out this week what recall he's had. When you're on the practice squad, most of the reps you're getting is for your opposing offense against your defense, so we're going to find out what kind of recall he's had. We've got to do a great job this week of getting him up to speed."
Part of that process, Huff knows, is forming a connection with his new quarterback, Jameis Winston. Huff already played seven games this season with Eagles rookie Carson Wentz, catching 13 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
"Since I've been here, I've been working, in and out, every day with him, trying to get the chemistry going," said Huff of Winston. "I think we've done a great job so far. We'll see it come Sunday, all of the hard work we've put in since I've been here."
Winston and Huff may need to get on the same page quickly. In San Diego, the Chargers made a concerted effort to take leading receiver Mike Evans out of the game. With Humphries and Shorts sidelined, it was up to Freddie Martino and Russell Shepard to step up, and they combined for 71 yards on five catches. That's good production, especially for Martino, who had two career receptions before Sunday and then added four against the Chargers. Still, the Bucs may not be deep in options on Sunday.
"It's getting better and better," said Winston of his chemistry with Huff. "Obviously, we still have a long way to go. We've got to get that connection, we've got to continue to work more and more, but we're looking forward to taking that challenge this week."
In his most recent game, Huff caught one pass for nine yards and ran two kickoffs back for 62 yards, in addition to that unsuccessful trick play. In the Eagles' previous contest, however, Huff had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Minnesota. He has two such touchdowns in his career, as well as three receptions for 39 or more yards. Last year he had a career-high 78 yards plus a touchdown on four catches against the Saints, the Bucs' next opponent.
"Anytime you go out, you want to have confidence, whether you're playing the Saints or any other team in the league," said Huff. "This league is all about confidence and if you have confidence, you're able to do a lot of things that you know you're capable of doing. My big thing is confidence and knowing that I can do anything that they're asking me to do and going out and executing at a high level."
Huff took the spot on the roster created by Shorts being placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Humphries remains on the roster but did not practice on Wednesday and he remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. Humphries would have to exit that protocol before being cleared to play on Sunday, and one aspect of that process is participating in a practice.
READ: WINSTON ON HISTORIC PACE
Starting right tackle Demar Dotson was also held out of practice on Wednesday due to a concussion. Four other Buccaneers missed the week's first workout, although cornerback Alterraun Verner's absence was not injury related. After the Buccaneers' win in San Diego, Verner remained in California to tend to family business related to the death of his father on Nov. 25.
Also held out on Wednesday were safety Chris Conte (chest), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (foot) and tight end Luke Stocker (ankle). The seventh name on the Bucs' official injury report for the week is center Evan Smith, who has missed the last four games due to a knee injury but was able to take part in Wednesday's practice in a limited fashion.