TAMPA — Bucs DT Gerald McCoy remained a major question mark for Sunday's home game against the Falcons on Friday due to his hand injury, but Tampa Bay got long-awaited good news on Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
The tight end, who has missed nine games since injuring a shoulder in Week 2, was cleared for full contact, a major hurdle to getting him back onto the field.
"He has been cleared. It's a big step," coach Lovie Smith said. "This is … as far along as he's been in a long time. We're encouraged. We'll see what happens Sunday."
Seferian-Jenkins was listed as being limited in practice and is questionable for Sunday. His return would add another key target for rookie QB Jameis Winston, who has yet to play a full game with WRs Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, and Seferian-Jenkins healthy at the same time.
McCoy, who injured his left hand in the second quarter Sunday against the Colts and had what has been called minor surgery to address the injury, didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. He dressed for practice Friday but was limited in what he could do, and he was careful to keep his left hand in the front pocket of his sweat shirt as he left the practice field.
McCoy was listed as doubtful for Sunday, a term the league says means he has a 25 percent or less chance of playing.
" 'Limited' (in practice) can mean an awful lot of things," Smith said of McCoy. "He was out here, dressed. It's not a full-speed practice, so you can be limited and do very little. He did very little. … If you have pain, you play. If it's an injury, you don't."
The team ruled out two players for Sunday: DE Jacquies Smith (hamstring) and DE George Johnson (calf). LB Bruce Carter (concussion) returned to practice in limited participation and is doubtful for Sunday.
SWITCH? Backup S Keith Tandy, who missed the Colts game with a concussion, is back to full participation and has worked the past three days at nickel defensive back, where Alterraun Verner had worked alone for several weeks. Verner was wearing a scout-team jersey at Friday's practice, suggesting Tandy could even step in as the primary nickel Sunday.
THIS AND THAT: Rookie RG Ali Marpet practiced fully all week and is probable for Sunday after missing three games with a sprained ankle. The question is whether the team will put him back in his starting role or stick with veteran Evan Smith, who has started the past three games. … With former QB Doug Williams being inducted into the team's Ring of Honor on Sunday, his son D.J. — a former Grambling quarterback, as is his father — will lead the Bucs out of the tunnel before the game. … Former Largo High DB Leonard Johnson, who was put on waivers off injured reserve Thursday, cleared and is free to sign with another team. Recovered from an ankle injury suffered in preseason, he said he'll start visiting teams Monday.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.