TAMPA — Having missed all the Bucs' voluntary offseason practices because "they're not mandatory," injured G Carl Nicks was a spectator at the first minicamp practice Tuesday but said he will be ready for training camp in six weeks on a modified schedule.
"God, I hope so. I mean, honestly I think I'll be ready to play," Nicks said. "It's just the waiting game and trying to get back out there."
Nicks has not played football of any kind since his recurrence of a MRSA infection following surgery on his left foot limited him to playing in only two games last season. He said he has been restricted to working out on elliptical machines and weight training. He hopes to do some light jogging soon. Nicks has played in only nine games since signing a five-year, $47.5 million contract as a Saints free agent in 2012.
"I'm not frustrated," Nicks said. "If it was Week 1 and I was in the same position I'm in, I'd be frustrated. But training camp hasn't even started, so I'm good. … I think I'll have a modified schedule, but I think I'll be able to play football. That's what I'm trying to do."
What did Nicks do during his time away from One Buc Place?
"Fishing, some rehabbing, fishing," Nicks said. "I just had a daughter, Jordan. She's just about two weeks old. I had my hands full with that. I'm just trying to get back."
Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Nicks passed the team's physical on Monday.
"My expectations for Carl is the same as it is for everybody else," Smith said. "No player has an injury that I'm really concerned about that's going to hinder them starting to work out, as I see it right now. … That includes Carl."
EVANS RETURNS: Texas A&M WR Mike Evans, the Bucs' first-round pick, returned to practice but was limited to individual drills. Evans missed most of the offseason after straining his left hamstring May 20.
Evans will likely be limited to individual passing drills for the remainder of the mandatory minicamp as a precaution, Smith said.
"Oh yeah, he's missed a lot," Smith said. "There's no other way to sugar coat it. We wanted Mike taking every rep. As a rookie, he needs to take every rep. But you know, around the league, it happens, especially with a lot of new guys."
Evans said the injury has tested his patience. "And I've been telling everybody how mad I am," Evans said. "They can see it on my face. But the season is not until August or September and I'm trying to understand that."
MARTIN'S ROLE: Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford's comments last week about relying on multiple running backs have fans wondering about the role Doug Martin will play. Smith said that he continues to have a very high opinion of the third-year running back, but also understands the need to use more than one back in the NFL.
"What I've said is I like Doug a lot. Doug's a good football player," Smith said. "Everywhere I've ever been, if you look at my history, our history, we've played more than one running back. We had a great running back in Thomas Jones, and we drafted Cedric Benson and played them both. One running back just can't make it through the season."
Smith's history as Bears coach works both for and against his argument — in nine seasons in Chicago, his leading rusher started all 16 games four times, averaging 14.5 starts. Smith's leading rusher each year accounted for 60.4 percent of his team's total rushing yards in Chicago, averaging 1,055 yards per season.
That statistic comes in contrast to what Martin has known in his short Bucs career — as a rookie in 2012, he rushed for 1,454 yards, or 79.2 percent of the Bucs' team total; in five games in 2013 before his shoulder injury, he rushed for 82.5 percent of the team's total rushing yards.
"That chatter, that's that baseball chatter before a guy gets to bat: 'Hey, batter, batter, swing' stuff," Smith said. "Don't pay any attention to that. Doug's a good football player. He knows that. You don't see Doug complaining. He knows what our plans are for him."
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.