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Bucs journal: Doug Martin, Robert Ayers out of concussion protocol

By Rick Stroud | Times Staff
Published: December 7, 2017 Updated: December 7, 2017 at 08:37 PM
LOREN ELLIOTT | Times Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) runs the ball during the first half of an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.

TAMPA — Bucs RB Doug Martin and DE Robert Ayers have cleared concussion protocol and are expected to play in Sunday’s game against the Lions.

How much Martin plays is uncertain. Second-year RB Peyton Barber became the only Bucs running back to reach 100 yards in a game this season when he gained 102 on 23 carries in Sunday’s 26-20 loss at Green Bay.

The Bucs have had three 100-yard rushing performances in a game the past two seasons, none of them by Martin.

Coach Dirk Koetter said Thursday he had "a great sense" of how he would use his running backs against the Lions "and I will let you know Sunday at one o’clock.’’

RELATED: Cameron Brate has earned Jameis Winston’s trust in clutch situations.

At 5 feet 11 and 225 pounds, Barber is bigger than the 5-foot-9, 220-pound Martin. Barber gained more than 60 of his 102 yards against the Packers after contact.

"Well, he is certainly a bigger back,’’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "He is able to certainly bring the capability of yards after contact. I think that’s what it was. (It was) something we needed and something that Doug had been doing better at.’’

The Bucs also got good news about C Joe Hawley, who returned to practice. Hawley became ill Saturday and was unable to play at Green Bay.

CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), DT Clinton McDonald (back) and S Josh Robinson (hamstring) did not practice. DE Ryan Russell (knee) had limited participation. S T.J. Ward, who missed the Green Bay game with a concussion, has not been cleared to play.

RELATED: Bucs defense: NFL’s most points allowed on road, fewest at home.

Koetter: Stafford comment in jest

Coach Dirk Koetter caused a bit of a firestorm Wednesday during a conference call with reporters who cover the Lions when he joked that the Bucs may try to target the injured right hand of QB Matthew Stafford.

"(We’ll) try to find a way to get ahold of that hand," Koetter said in response to a question about facing quarterbacks with hand injuries.

Stafford injured his throwing hand when it was stepped on by Ravens LB Terrell Suggs in the fourth quarter of the Lions’ loss Sunday.

Koetter clarified his comment Thursday.

"No, we would never go after any player,’’ Koetter said. "If you read that whole thing, it was said in jest, followed up by about a 10-minute oration on how tough of a player Matthew Stafford is, which is easy for anybody to see."

Winston still supports Jimbo

QB Jameis Winston said he will continue to support Jimbo Fisher, even though his coach at Florida State has left for Texas A&M.

Winston won a national championship and the Heisman Trophy under Fisher in the 2013 season and led Florida State to the national semifinals in the 2014 season.

"Coach Fisher is behind coach (Bobby) Bowden (in Winston’s affections), with all respect to him,’’ Winston said. "But coach Fisher is an amazing coach, and I think his track record speaks for that. Actions speak. He always says … ‘Actions speak so loud, I can’t even hear your words.’ That’s just the way he is, and I think you will see that at Texas A&M.

"Fans, obviously, they’re going to have their opinions. I believe everyone in Tallahassee really loves coach Fisher. I know I do. … I know I’m going to be at Texas A&M with (former A&M receiver) Mike Evans joining him down there as well, even though I’m a Seminole. That’s just the love I have for him. He’s like a father to me. So anywhere he goes, I don’t care if he goes to Auburn, I’m still going to go there and support him. Coach Fisher, he’s definitely one of the best coaches in Florida State history.’’