TAMPA — The Bucs on Friday officially ruled out four players for Sunday's home opener against the Rams: RB Doug Martin (hamstring), DE Robert Ayers (ankle), TE Luke Stocker (ankle) and WR Cecil Shorts (hamstring), all injured in last weekend's loss at Arizona and held out of practice all week.
Coach Dirk Koetter has been tight-lipped about injuries all week, but none of the four was even in attendance at practice during the window open to the media. Martin reportedly is missing about three weeks with his hamstring injury. No timetable is known for the others.
Who steps in for the four? Charles Sims will start for Martin, with Jacquizz Rodgers as backup and rookie Peyton Barber dressing as the third running back. The Bucs promoted rookie Alan Cross to the active roster to offset two losses at tight end, with Stocker injured and Austin Seferian-Jenkins waived after his DUI arrest Friday morning. First-year player Freddie Martino will make his Bucs debut as the fifth receiver in Shorts' place, and rookie Channing Ward is expected to dress and make his NFL debut as the fifth end in Ayers' place.
The Bucs listed three players as questionable with injuries — LB Lavonte David (shoulder), LT Donovan Smith (hip) and S Ryan Smith (hand) — though all three were full participants in Friday's practice. David and Donovan Smith will start as expected. Ryan Smith could be inactive again. With the injuries, there are really only two inactive spots for healthy scratches.
TRANSACTION: The Bucs placed rookie LB Devante Bond on injured reserve with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the past four weeks and re-signed LB Josh Keyes to take his place on the roster.
Bond, a sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma, had participated fully in Wednesday's practice and the Bucs had waived Keyes on Monday, suggesting that Bond had made enough progress to be active and make his NFL debut Sunday. But he was held out of Thursday's practice entirely.
Keyes, a second-year player from Boston College, played extensively on special teams in the Bucs' first two games and was on the roster for part of last season as well.
The Bucs have the right to pull one player off injured reserve. If Bond recovers, he could return to practice in six weeks and start playing in eight, which would allow him to still play in the final seven games of the season.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.