Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs cornerback Mike Jenkins returns to practice

TAMPA — Bucs CB Mike Jenkins, sidelined all August with a hamstring injury, returned to practice Monday, an encouraging step toward his playing in Sunday's season opener against Carolina.

Several other key players were held out, and coach Lovie Smith is maintaining every strategic advantage, disclosing only what information the league requires, which isn't until later in the week for injuries.

Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Louis Murphy were held out of practice. Murphy bruised his lower back in Thursday's preseason finale; Jackson could have had a day off. Also sidelined: Defensive ends Will Gholston (shoulder) and Da'Quan Bowers (groin), CB Rashaan Melvin (ankle), S Bradley McDougald (knee) and FB Jorvorskie Lane (hand).

Lane had his left hand heavily wrapped because of a deep bone bruise and said he'll have to keep it that way all season, though it doesn't keep him from blocking or catching.

Owusu at returner? After cutting Solomon Patton over the weekend, the Bucs seem to have found their new returner.

WR Chris Owusu was the first player to line up deep on kick returns during the 30-minute window of practice open to the media. RB Mike James also returned kicks deep.

Smith said the team has decided on the starter but wouldn't announce it publicly. "There's competition always, but we know who we're going to line up with as our returner," he said.

Patton had 14 of the team's 26 returns (kick and punt combined).

Owusu didn't return a kickoff in the preseason, and James returned two for 37 total yards.

Bobby Rainey was the No. 2 punt returner in the preseason, amassing 30 yards on three returns.

Captains named: The Bucs named their five captains: Jackson and QB Josh McCown on offense, DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David on defense, and P Michael Koenen on special teams.

Smith made a subtle joke at the expense of former Bucs coach Greg Schiano when he made the announcement. Schiano was accused of rigging the captain vote last year to prevent then-QB Josh Freeman from earning a spot. Schiano denied it.

Smith said every member of the team, including himself, got only one vote.

"We added it up," Smith said. "I kept track of it, too, in case someone wants to check it."

Jackson and McCoy were also captains last year.

This and that: The 10-man practice squad was completed by three players: rookie S Kimario McFadden, cut by the Falcons; CB Derrius Brooks, cut by the Saints, and rookie LB Carlos Fields, cut by the Raiders. … Twenty-three of the team's 53 players are in their first or second season in the NFL; 23 have joined the Bucs since Smith was hired to replace the fired Schiano in January.

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 226-3346, and Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @gregauman and @MBakerTBTimes.

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