TAMPA — Bucs LG Carl Nicks returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since mid August, when he was diagnosed with the serious staph infection MRSA on his left foot.
Nicks said he's now "MRSA free," and though he was limited in practice and needs to get back into football shape, he's hopeful he can play Sunday against his former team, the Saints.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to play" Sunday, Nicks said.
Nicks, a two-time Pro Bowl player, said recent blood tests revealed he's clear of the infection, which started as a blister on the side of his foot. K Lawrence Tynes was also diagnosed with MRSA around the same time and is now on the non-football injured reserve list. The Bucs had their facility cleaned twice since.
"Anytime you get any kind of injury like that, there's pain," Nicks said. "But it was more mental than anything. I wasn't really scared, just irritated that I couldn't be out there with my guys."
Because Nicks wasn't able to do much on his feet while recovering, he said conditioning will be the biggest issue in returning to the lineup.
"You can run sprints until you're blue in the face, but you're not going to get into football shape with anything except football," Nicks said.
The good news is that Nicks said his surgically repaired left big toe, which forced him to miss half of last season, "is not even an issue at all." The Bucs signed Nicks envisioning teaming him with Pro Bowl RG Davin Joseph on the line, but the duo has yet to play in a regular-season game together.
"Hopefully when I get back out there," Nicks said. "We're just bash brothers."
Saints QB Drew Brees, a former teammate of Nicks, knows what the Bucs have been missing: a "monster," a "very complete guard, great player."
Joked Brees: "Tell him if he just wants to miss one more week, just to make sure that it's all good, go ahead and do that."
GOLDSON FINED: Bucs S Dashon Goldson said he was fined a "pretty significant" amount for his hit on Jets TE Jeff Cumberland Sunday.
Goldson received a personal foul penalty for the hit, when he leaped and struck Cumberland, who was in midair trying to catch a pass down the field. Referees considered Cumberland a "defenseless receiver."
Goldson believes the hit was clean. "The refs have a tough job, they've got to call it like they see it," Goldson said. "But I've got to play it, I've got to play football."
And Goldson won't change how he plays.
"I play the game to win, I can't play timid," he said. "If I play timid, then it's a touchdown."
NO WORRIES: It certainly didn't look good Sunday when television cameras caught Bucs LT Donald Penn and WR Vincent Jackson in a heated sideline conversation.
But Penn made it clear that there was nothing going on between the veterans. "I was trying to explain something to the offensive coordinator about some miscommunication, and (Jackson), doing what he's supposed to do, told me to go onto the next play," Penn said. "I was frustrated with the whole situation about how we were playing. It had nothing to do with what Vincent told me, or any of that. I shouldn't have reacted like that. … Me and Vincent Jackson are fine, the offense is fine. There's no beef or nothing. I was just frustrated with the situation. …
"I've got to learn how to handle it better … instead of letting my anger show."
FIRST IMPRESSION: Former Gators star and Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps participated in his first Bucs practice Wednesday, and his speed certainly stood out. Coach Greg Schiano said Demps, imitating Saints RB Darren Sproles on the scout team, reversed field on a carry then outran the secondary.
"Jeff Demps' speed (is) no joke," DT Gerald McCoy said. "He ran a play (Wednesday) on the scout team, my goodness, you can't get a better look than that for Darren Sproles, because he turned the corner, I think I was literally standing next to him, then he was like 40 yards downfield. Everybody was like, 'Wow.' "
MEDICAL MATTERS: FB Erik Lorig, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, appears likely to return this week as he was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and said he's feeling great. CB Mike Adams (knee) had surgery Wednesday but is expected back later this year. TE Tom Crabtree (ankle) did not practice, and CB Rashaan Melvin was limited.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.