TAMPA — The Bucs will be without four key players, including three starters on offense, for Sunday's home game against the Saints.
RT Demar Dotson and WR Adam Humphries remain in the NFL's concussion protocol and are out. Humphries practiced Thursday and Friday but will be replaced in the lineup by either Russell Shepard, Freddie Martino or Josh Huff.
Also ruled out was TE Luke Stocker, who aggravated a foot injury in last week's 28-21 win at San Diego. S Chris Conte will miss his second straight game with a chest injury.
Veteran Gosder Cherilus, who started eight games last season, will replace Dotson at right tackle.
"I have extreme confidence in 'Gos,' " coach Dirk Koetter said. "Extreme. One of the best vets on our team. He's played a lot of ball for us. A true pro, always prepared whatever his role is. … Gos will jump in there and do a great job for us."
Cherilus has been involved as a third tight end in some of the team's jumbo packages.
DT Gerald McCoy (ankle/foot) returned to practice and is questionable but expected to play. G/C Evan Smith (knee) practiced and also is questionable.
Koetter said this time of year, veteran players such as McCoy don't require as much practice time to be effective.
"When you have guys that (are) proven players and have played multiple years, you've just got to be smart about it," Koetter said. "Those guys know if they can play. … We've got to save their body."
The Saints defense lost one of its best players Friday when S Kenny Vaccaro dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension handed down a few weeks ago for violating the league's drug policy, meaning he will miss the rest of the regular season.
CROSS TRAINING: Rookie DB Ryan Smith, who has not played a snap on defense this season, has been working for the past two weeks as a cornerback, the position he played in his last two years of college at North Carolina Central.
Smith, who has been the Bucs' primary kick returner, was moved from safety to adjust for depth while CB Jude Adjei-Barimah serves his four-game suspension, but the team will decide in the offseason whether his future is at corner or safety.
"We're cross-training Ryan because we think he's athletic enough to play both positions," defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "He spent the first part of the season playing safety, and now we're working him at the corner position, trying to get him up to speed. You've got to have contingency plans in place for the game."