TAMPA — Bucs LB Mason Foster said he hasn't missed a game in his career, including high school.
Foster, 24, hopes the streak stays alive Sunday against the Lions, though he's unsure because of a concussion sustained Sunday against the Falcons. Foster did not practice Thursday for the second straight day, but coach Greg Schiano said he's "cautiously optimistic" he'll be ready.
"I think I'm close," said Foster, hurt when he collided with S Dashon Goldson. "But you've got to be safe. I hate missing anything; hate missing reps. So it's tough. At the same time, I've got to look out for my future and make sure I'm able to play down the road and not get seriously hurt."
Foster, a third-year pro, has 40 tackles (third on the team), two sacks and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown last week. While Foster is still having tests and hasn't been cleared for practice, he has participated in meetings and film study.
"I'm preparing like I'm going to play," he said. "Hopefully, I'll get the go-ahead."
If Foster can't go, Adam Hayward likely will start, though Schiano said there are different combinations they can use, especially in nickel packages.
Another sub: S Keith Tandy will be replacing the suspended Goldson. But defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said they "don't miss a beat" with Tandy, 24, a second-year player who has converted from cornerback since getting drafted in the sixth round from West Virginia.
Tandy started the two games Goldson missed earlier this season with a left knee injury and had a goal-line interception against Seattle.
"He's done an outstanding job," Sheridan said. "Keith is a real versatile guy, really smart, can digest a game plan and put it into practice immediately. He's really good at everything; maybe not a 'Wow,' spectacular, dynamic player at any one particular part of his game but is good in run support, can tackle.
"He's athletic, can play man-to-man coverage, understand zone coverage. He's really come around. We've put him in there, and I don't think we miss a beat."
Schiano said Tandy, 5 feet 10, 205 pounds, is not the biggest guy, but he's not afraid of contact and reliable in several facets, including special teams. Tandy said he has seen his confidence grow in each game and has become more vocal.
"You make a couple plays, and you're confidence builds," Tandy said.
"I'm starting to see plays more before they happen."
CRABTREE IMPROVING: The Bucs had a lot of expectations for TE Tom Crabtree before a high ankle sprain torpedoed the first half of his season. But Crabtree's health has improved and so has his play, Schiano said. Crabtree has four catches for 21 yards and a touchdown this season.
"It's been like a couple weeks where I haven't heard in the injury report anything that's bothering him," Schiano said. "And you can see an increased level of play. I don't know if he's all the way back, but he's getting real close to where he was."
MEGA-WEAPONS: Much of the Bucs' attention on defense will be stopping WR Calvin "Megatron" Johnson and the Lions' passing game behind QB Matthew Stafford. Bucs CB Darrelle Revis will shoulder a lot of that task. But RB Reggie Bush is a tough player to match up with, and WR Nate Burleson is scheduled to return from a broken left forearm sustained in a September car crash.
"They have other really outstanding skill players," Sheridan said. "Reggie Bush alone can pose all kinds of problems in the passing game as well as running the ball.
"I think the big challenge will be how our other players play on the perimeter against their skill. And they have outstanding skill, and the quarterback's fantastic. That's going to be very critical in how the game turns out."