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Bucs journal: Injured trio of offensive linemen could return Sunday

By Rick Stroud
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws deep and incomplete during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.

TAMPA ó The Bucs left open the door to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick having all three injured starting offensive linemen to protect him Sunday against the Jets.

Tackles Demar Dotson (hamstring) and Donovan Smith (knee), who did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, are questionable. But Dotson was upgraded to full participation Friday while Smith was limited. Starting RG J.R. Sweezy, who was limited with a knee injury this week, had full participation Friday and is questionable.

The Bucs finished Sundayís 30-10 loss at New Orleans with LG Kevin Pamphile playing at left tackle after Smith, who had never missed a snap in 24 starts, was forced to leave in the second half.

If Dotson were unable to play, the team would likely replace him with Caleb Benenoch.

In addition, DE Robert Ayers, who did not practice until Friday due to a knee injury, was upgraded to limited and also is questionable. DT Gerald McCoy had been limited during the week with a shoulder injury but practiced fully Friday and is questionable.

CB Brent Grimes, who missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, did everything in practice Thursday and Friday and should return to the lineup.

"Itís great to have Brent Grimes out there," coach Dirk Koetter said. "When you get your better players back out there ó your top players that have proven themselves in the league ó of course, youíre very excited about that."

The Bucs could be without CB Robert McClain, who started at New Orleans. McClain did not practice Friday due to a hamstring injury he sustained during the week and is doubtful.

Smooth transition

The Bucs never wanted to have to use Fitzpatrick as a starting quarterback. But the fact that he already has been forced to take over in games for starter Jameis Winston ó and performed well ó will be a plus Sunday.

Fitzpatrick made his Bucs debut after Winston hurt his shoulder in Week 6 at Arizona. He passed for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, nearly all of it coming in the second half against the Cardinals. Fitzpatrick replaced Winston on Sunday at New Orleans and went 8-of-15 for 68 yards and a TD.

"I think thatís a big plus, that heís been in there, heís heard the plays come in the way we say the plays in his earpiece, and heís moved our team," Koetter said. "I think, yeah, that definitely is (an advantage) as opposed to just all of a sudden your second guy was going out there for the first time. I think thereís a definite plus to that. Now the fact that Ryan has played a lot in his career. But I think somebody here reported when he played at Arizona, that really helped him feel like he was playing again. Heís a guy who has played a lot of football. Yeah, I definitely feel thatís helped. Thatís a positive."