TAMPA — Starting LT Donovan Smith, held out of practice Wednesday with a hip injury, was back Thursday, a good sign he will be able to play in the Bucs' home opener Sunday against the Rams.
Smith hasn't missed a snap in his first 18 NFL games, and his presence is a big part of the offensive line, which faces a tough Rams front four that includes Pro Bowl DT Aaron Donald and end Robert Quinn, who is three years removed from a 19-sack season.
"Of course, you want your best players on the field," said coach Dirk Koetter, declining to provide specifics on injuries beyond what's required on the injury report.
Four Bucs injured in Sunday's loss at Arizona — RB Doug Martin (hamstring), DE Robert Ayers (ankle), TE Luke Stocker (ankle) and WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring) — were again not at practice during the window open to the media, suggesting they will be inactive Sunday.
Rookie LB Devante Bond, who was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, did not practice Thursday, which likely means the hamstring injury that has sidelined him for four weeks might again be a problem. The team has only five linebackers on the roster, so if Bond can't play Sunday, it might need to promote Cameron Lynch from the practice squad for depth.
BACK HOME: The NFL is back in Los Angeles after 22 years, and as the Rams come to Tampa, it's a new world for Bucs players who grew up in Los Angeles rooting for the Lakers and Dodgers and little else.
"It's really cool, and I hope it lasts. I think it will," said S Chris Conte, born and raised in the Santa Monica/Malibu area. "Hopefully it will. Whenever there's something new in L.A., everybody starts to buzz, but give it a week or two, it dies down pretty quickly. There's something (else) new going on."
Conte and backup QB Ryan Griffin were teammates at Loyola High in Los Angeles and at one point went up against Bucs C Joe Hawley in a state playoff game when he played at Esperanza High in Anaheim.
THIS AND THAT: Defensive coordinator Mike Smith had praise for undrafted rookie DL DaVonte Lambert, who played 29 snaps in his NFL debut Sunday against the Cardinals, stepping in for injured Jacquies Smith. "He understands what his job is," Smith said. "He's a guy that is going to have to play significant snaps for us." … The Bucs have been conservative in bringing kickoffs out of the end zone, seeing other teams struggle to get the same return they get from a touchback. "Taking it out on the 25, from an offensive standpoint, is kind of a juicy thought," Koetter said. … DT Gerald McCoy said Rams WR Tavon Austin, who had two touchdowns in last year's win against the Bucs, is "unhumanly fast." The Bucs will have to watch for him on quick screens and jet sweeps, in addition to the passing game.
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