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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

McCoy, David Could Return Sunday

While the Buccaneers' roster has been hit hard by injuries in the season's last month, the defense could get a boost Sunday if Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David return to action

On Monday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers played a game without both Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David for the first time since the two became teammates in 2012. The Buccaneers hope they won't have to make it two this Sunday in Charlotte

After the team's final practice in preparation for the Carolina Panthers on Friday, Head Coach Dirk Koetter indicated that the door remained open for both McCoy and David – a pair of captains and the team's two most productive defensive players in 2017 – to return for the Week 16 contest. McCoy and David suffered biceps and hamstring injuries, respectively, in Week 14 against the Detroit Lions.

"Yeah, they are both possible [to play]," said Koetter. "Of course, we'd love to have them back – two excellent players."

Both players are listed as questionable on Friday's official injury report, though McCoy was notably upgraded to full-participation status in the last practice. David remains limited, as he has been all week, but even that is an improvement from the prior week, when he did not practice at all. It may have helped that the team conducted a less physical set of workouts than usual this week coming off a Monday night game that forced five players to injured reserve.

Koetter said the players handled the revised practice work well and was thus sufficient to get the team ready to play the 10-4 Panthers on Sunday.

"Yeah, these guys did a good job," said Koetter. "You [have] a short week coming off of physical game – they will be ready to go. These guys will be ready to come out and give us what they've got."

The Buccaneers lost that game without McCoy and David, though narrowly, as a missed 54-yard field goal at the end of regulation allowed the Atlanta Falcons to hold onto a 24-21 win. The defense did an admirable job, particularly as additional players began to leave the game with injuries, but it would obviously be a plus to get McCoy and David back. McCoy leads the team in sacks, quarterback hits and tackles for loss while David leads in tackles, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. McCoy is also the team's only Pro Bowl selection this year, though David is one of three alternates who could eventually be named to the NFC squad.

A return by McCoy would help balance the loss of the team's second-most productive pass-rusher this year. Defensive end Robert Ayers has been ruled out for the Carolina game due to a shoulder injury he sustained on Monday night. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (ankle) is also out, while starting cornerback Ryan Smith (ankle) is considered doubtful for the game.

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