- Given the heavy rains of the past week in the Bay area, the Bucs took advantage of an opportunity to practice on turf Wednesday
- QB Josh McCown did not practice on Wednesday and is not yet ready to resume throwing a football
- WR Kevin Cone and TE Taylor Sloat are the two latest players to get a shot on the Bucs' practice squad
This weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will hit the road to play a game on artificial turf inside a domed stadium. On Wednesday, the Buccaneers hit the road to conduct a practice on artificial turf inside a domed stadium.
With Major League Baseball's regular season over – and the Tampa Bay Rays out of the playoff field for just the third time in seven years – Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg was available for the Bucs to get in some turf work relatively close to home. A long string of rainy days has left most real turf in the Bay area a bit waterlogged, so the Buccaneers decided to take advantage of their Trop opp.
"As a general rule, unless rain dictates us going there, we'll practice on the grass, but we will keep that option open when we play inside," said Head Coach Lovie Smith on Wednesday, noting that the recent Bay area weather "pushed us in [the] direction" of Tropicana Field. "Not necessarily just when we play inside, but when we're playing on an artificial surface."
The Bucs took buses across the bay to the Rays home and were able to get back to team headquarters before running into any traffic jams. The disruption to the day proved minimal and was easily balanced by a number of advantages the Trop offered in terms of preparing for the Superdome. The Bucs are currently scheduled to practice in the same place on Thursday.
"It was a good practice for us and playing on the turf is a different feel," said Smith. "For a couple of reasons: There's a lot of rain here and our fields are drenched but it is a different feel inside. Catching the ball, looking in the lights, change of directions, all of those things were good and then it was just a change of pace to do something different for our players. It was a good productive day, no traffic issues, just an easy in-and-out day for us down there and I liked it so much that we'll probably go back tomorrow."
The Buccaneers crossed the bay on Wednesday to practice at Tropicana Field, and they will probably do so again on Thursday
- The Buccaneers clearly benefited from the return of several injured players last weekend in Pittsburgh, but it would be a stretch to say that the team is out of the woods on that front. In fact, two of the players who returned to significant effect on Sunday – defensive end Michael Johnson (two sacks and a forced fumble) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (three catches for 44 yards) – were on the sideline again when the Bucs started the practice week on Wednesday.
Both Johnson and Seferian-Jenkins are working through ankle injuries they suffered in the 2014 season opener. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed most of the previous two games due to a fracture in his left hand, was on the practice field on Wednesday, but in limited fashion. It's possible that all three are being treated with caution to avoid setbacks, but Thursday's practice will be significant in determining how likely they are to play against the Saints.
"It was a precaution," said Smith of the decision to rest Seferian-Jenkins. "He should be good to go. Coming back last week he got some good reps in, but we'll take our time with him. No setback on Michael [Johnson]'s part either."
There were three new names on the Bucs' list as a result of Sunday's game at Heinz Field: wide receiver Mike Evans (groin), safety Dashon Goldson (ankle) and safety Mark Barron (abdomen). The first two were unable to finish the Pittsburgh game, were not on the practice field on Wednesday and appear to be serious concerns for this week's game. Barron did come back to the game after being sidelined briefly, and he was on the field in a limited fashion on Wednesday.
Linebacker Mason Foster was limited, too, but that actually represents a step in the right direction. He has missed the last two games due to a shoulder injury but was hopeful that a good start on Wednesday would be the beginning of his return.
"You never know," said Foster before practice. "This is going to be a big day to see how it goes. We'll know more after today. You hate missing any games, especially after spending so much time with these guys here. I'll try to do whatever I can to get back on the field."
Quarterback Josh McCown did not practice due to the right thumb injury he suffered in Atlanta on September 18. The Buccaneers have not announced a definitive starter for Sunday's game in New Orleans but, as with last week, if McCown doesn't practice it would seem highly unlikely that he'd get the call over Glennon.
"Josh isn't ready to throw a football yet," said Smith. "He's making progress. I'm not going to talk an awful lot about [injuries]. He didn't practice today, but he's making progress."
- The Buccaneers' practice squad continues to get weekly tweaks. This week, two of the 10 spots were switched out in time for the beginning of practice on Wednesday. Joining the crew were wide receiver Kevin Cone and tight end Taylor Sloat; moving on were linebacker Carlos Fields and tight end Ian Thompson.
Check out photos from the Buccaneers' practice at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.
Of those four, Cone is the only one who is not a rookie. In fact, as a third-year player, he's only eligible for the practice squad because the NFL changed its rules just before the start of the season. Practice squad limits were increased to 10 spots, and two of those 10 can be used on players who have accrued up to two years of NFL free agency credit.
The 6-2, 218-pound Cone spent most of the last three seasons on the Atlanta Falcons' active roster, primarily pitching in as a special teams ace. He has appeared in 29 games, and while he has just one catch for 12 yards in regular-season play he also has contributed 10 kick-coverage tackles. The Buccaneers obviously needed a bit of extra depth at receiver for the week of practice given the groin injury suffered by Evans on Sunday.
Cone, who played his college ball at Georgia Tech, stayed close to start his NFL career, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Falcons in 2011. He spent much of that year on the team's practice squad before getting a promotion in time to appear in the season finale, coincidentally against the Buccaneers. This season, he went to training camp with the Miami Dolphins and also had a short stint on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad.
Sloat is getting his first crack at an NFL roster. He did participate in the Buccaneers' rookie mini-camp on a tryout contract in May but did not subsequently sign with any team. He also had a tryout with the San Francisco 49ers. At UC-Davis, the 6-4, 245-pound Sloat caught 30 passes for 428 yards as a senior in 2013.
Fields, out of Winston-Salem State, went to training camp with the Oakland Raiders and has been on the Bucs' practice squad since the first week of the season. Thompson went to camp with the Buccaneers but only joined the team's practice squad last week.