TAMPA — The Bucs haven't been this healthy since the start of the season.
DE Robert Ayers practiced Wednesday for the first time in three weeks, testing his ankle with limited participation, a first step toward playing for the first time since Week 2 at Arizona. DT Clinton McDonald, who has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, also practiced, offering hope that the defensive line could be back to full strength Sunday at home against the Raiders.
RB Doug Martin remains sidelined with his own hamstring injury and could miss a fifth straight game, but his absence has been mitigated by backup Jacquizz Rodgers rushing for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games.
Coach Dirk Koetter did confirm that WR Louis Murphy, working to return from ACL surgery in November, had a "setback" last week with an unrelated injury and is unable to practice.
"That's a little bit of a juggling act every week," Koetter said of his team surviving a rash of injuries to win its past two games.
SECONDARY SHOWDOWN: Sunday's game will have Bucs cornerbacks Brent Grimes and rookie Vernon Hargreaves trying to limit Oakland's strong receiving duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is tied with the Bucs' Mike Evans for the league lead with six touchdowns, but Koetter is confident in his corners.
"I've been beating their drum all season," Koetter said. "I think we've got two good corners, and I'm pretty sure Oakland has two good wide receivers. … That'll be a fun one to watch for all those Bucs fans that are going to fill up Ray Jay on Sunday."
THIS AND THAT: Bryan Anger ranks seventh in the league in net punting at 43.0 yards per punt, on pace to break the Bucs' single-season record of 40.3 yards. He credits his coverage unit, which has Tampa Bay on pace to set team records for both fair catches and punts downed inside the 20-yard line. … The Bucs had CB Josh Robinson cross-training with the team's safeties Wednesday. He has worked there in practice in the past, with greater team depth at corner, but he hasn't played a snap on defense this season, working well on coverage units on special teams. … The Raiders lead the league in penalties and are second in penalty yards. Oakland has twice as many offensive holding and false start penalties as the Bucs this season.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.