TAMPA — When the Bucs lost LB Kwon Alexander for the final four games due to a suspension, their first response was to start in his middle spot Bruce Carter, who had a sack and eight tackles before being sidelined by an ankle injury and missing Thursday's game against the Rams.
As the Bucs returned to practice Tuesday, Carter was back practicing and getting work in the middle again, with last week's starter, Danny Lansanah, back to his old position at strongside linebacker.
Coach Lovie Smith declined to respond to a question about the middle linebacker position, in part because the league doesn't require teams to acknowledge injuries until Wednesday in a normal game week. The Bucs on Friday waived Orie Lemon, who had started at the strongside spot against the Rams and was eventually replaced by rookie Josh Keyes. Smith said Keyes was "okay" in his first defensive snaps of the season.
Also sidelined Tuesday were WR Vincent Jackson (knee), S Chris Conte (knee) and DE Kourtnei Brown (groin). Left guard Logan Mankins was also sidelined, but that could have been for rest. Mankins played all but three snaps against the Rams.
REUNION: Smith on Sunday goes against the team he coached from 2004-12, but he won't see many familiar faces on the Bears' roster, with only six players remaining from his 2012 team, including QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte and WR Alshon Jeffery.
"A few years is a long time," Smith said. "But I understand the team we're playing. Like last week, I had a lot of fond memories from my time in St. Louis (where he was defensive coordinator from 2001-03). I have a lot of fond memories from my time in Chicago. … There won't be any family reunions or anything like that going on. We're just trying to get a win."
PROMOTED: Rookie WR Evan Spencer was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and can make his NFL debut against the Bears, a team he grew up around. Spencer's father, Tim, the Bucs' running backs coach, had the same role on Smith's Bears staff from 2004-12.
"It's going to be really special," said Evan, 6 feet 2 and 208 pounds, who played at Ohio State, was drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round and signed with the Bucs in September.
"I got the call (about the promotion) from my agent and said 'Oh, my God, this is going to be sweet.' All my friends back home will get a chance to watch, so I'm really excited."
Spencer, who caught 52 passes for 579 yards and seven touchdowns in four years at Ohio State, will the third rookie playing receiver for the Bucs, along with Adam Humphries and Donteea Dye. His best chance to make an impact Sunday will be on special teams; he will replace Lemon, a regular on special teams.
Special teams have "always been vital in my game," said Spencer, who had four special-teams tackle at Ohio State last year. "I'm going to go out and do whatever I can on special teams to contribute. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability as hard as I can."
THIS AND THAT: Former USF WR Andre Davis was re-signed for a second stint with the practice squad, filling the spot opened by Spencer's promotion. The Bucs also signed former Georgia Southern LB Darius Eubanks, who had spent the past eight weeks on the Cowboys' practice squad. … One local on the Bears' roster is Boca Ciega graduate Josh Bellamy, a receiver who has 14 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown as a 26-year-old first-year player.
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.