TAMPA — For the second time in as many days, the Bucs tweaked their opening roster Wednesday, waiving No. 3 running back Mike James because of a lingering injury. Tampa Bay will promote undrafted rookie Peyton Barber from the practice squad before Sunday's season opener in Atlanta.
"Hard part of the business, feel horrible for Mike," coach Dirk Koetter said. "It didn't look like Mike would be ready to go this week, so we're going to have to make a move there. … We've got to have 53 healthy guys ready for this week."
James, who didn't play a snap last season and spent most of the year on the practice squad, had made the initial cut to the 53-man roster, despite totaling just 20 yards on 13 carries in the preseason and missing the final two games with an injury. His waiving comes with an injury settlement that keeps the Bucs from re-signing him for at least a month.
Barber, who had only one season as a starter at Auburn, will be promoted to serve as the No. 3 back behind Pro Bowler Doug Martin and No. 2 Charles Sims. Barber led the Bucs with 99 rushing yards in the preseason but averaged only 2.5 yards per carry. He also had seven catches for 55 yards.
The move came a day after the Bucs signed veteran WR Cecil Shorts, waiving Evan Spencer to make room.
INJURY UPDATE: The Bucs returned to the practice field with only two players limited by injuries. TE Luke Stocker was held out with a back injury, and rookie LB Devante Bond practiced but was limited after missing two weeks with a hamstring injury. Rookie S Ryan Smith practiced with a hand injury that won't keep him from playing defense but would likely keep him from handling kickoff returns.
GETTING BETTER: As much of a step forward as the offensive line took in 2015, going from allowing 52 sacks in 2014 to 27, RT Demar Dotson said the unit has to be better in protecting QB Jameis Winston.
"When you go back and look at it, the protection wasn't great," Dotson said. "There probably should have been more sacks than it showed, because you've got an elusive quarterback. Jameis, he bailed this line out numerous times. It's a big credit to that guy, and he's going to continue to do it. That's the kind of effort and attitude he brings, but we up front, we've got to protect that guy."
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.