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Akeem Spence nears Bucs return

Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence has been sidelined since July because of back surgery.

JIM DAMASKE | Times (2014)

Bucs defensive tackle Akeem Spence has been sidelined since July because of back surgery.

TAMPA — Bucs DT Akeem Spence, sidelined since having back surgery in July, could make his season debut Sunday with backup Tony McDaniel sidelined Thursday by a groin injury.

"He's been rehabbing for a long time," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's been keeping his strength up, staying in pretty good shape. We thought it would be a quick turnaround once he was able to come back. He was able to go through a full padded practice and looked pretty good with it."

For Tampa Bay to activate Spence from the physically unable to perform list, it would have to cut a player from the 53-man roster, but McDaniel's injury might necessitate that. The team has three weeks to activate Spence, place him on injured reserve or release him.

Spence, 23, had 37 tackles and three sacks last season, primarily off the bench. He said Thursday that his first practice was an encouraging step to give him confidence that his back has recovered from the surgery.

"I was happy to get back out there with the guys," he said. "It was fun, and it felt good. A back is really tricky — you only have one back in life, so the organization wanted to take time, I wanted to take time to make sure I was comfortable. Everything's been feeling good — no complaints."

INJURY UPDATE: LG Logan Mankins, who missed the team's last game on Oct. 11 against the Jaguars with a groin injury, practiced for the first time in two weeks.

Mankins returning to practice is an encouraging sign for his chances to play Sunday at Washington and back up LB Bruce Carter, who had missed Wednesday's practice with a thigh injury, was also back practicing. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins remains out with a shoulder injury, increasing the odds that he will miss a fourth straight game.

Backup T Reid Fragel, who sustained a head injury at Wednesday's practice, was not in attendance Thursday; he is under concussion protocol, so he's unlikely to play Sunday, though if Mankins is healthy that would allow Kevin Pamphile to move back into his role as the backup at both tackle spots.

BANKS BACK: CB Johnthan Banks, who missed two games after injuring his knee in the Sept. 27 loss to the Texans, was a full participant in practice for the second straight day. His healthy return would help the depth in the secondary, which relied heavily on Tim Jennings and Mike Jenkins in the win against Jacksonville.

"It would be a boon for us," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He's a good player and one of our guys we really kind of count on. Not having him really hurt our depth. To get him back would really help us. We are playing a team that runs some three and four wide (receivers) at times, so it would help to have him back for sure."

Banks would likely start ahead of Jenkins if healthy, with Alterraun Verner now working as the nickel defensive back.

THIS AND THAT: "Is it sad to say you are looking forward to 3-3?" WR Vincent Jackson said with a laugh Thursday. "No, it would be great. That's all we can do." … DT Gerald McCoy on defensive line coach Joe Cullen: "He's crazy, man. He's a good crazy. I respect him. Of the coaches I've had in my lifetime, he's right up there at the top for most respect from me." … The Redskins still had five players held out of Thursday's practice with injury, including CBs DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver and WR DeSean Jackson. LB Keenan Robinson was upgraded to limited participation.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

Akeem Spence nears Bucs return 10/22/15 [Last modified: Thursday, October 22, 2015 9:27pm]
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