TAMPA — Bucs C Jeff Faine has missed a month with a quadriceps injury and is close to returning. But he might have to "battle" with Jeremy Zuttah for his starting position, according to coach Raheem Morris.
Faine participated in a full practice Thursday without incident. But Morris said he's undecided if Faine will start Sunday against the Panthers. The Bucs might stick with Zuttah at center and rookie Ted Larsen at left guard.
"It's a battle, you'd have to say, because Larsen has played so well," Morris said. "If Faine comes back in, Zuttah has played really well at center. It's going to be a battle for Faine. … Faine is one of our leaders and one of our captains. He's got to go out there and play better than them right now.
"It's a really good problem that you have two guys that can go out there and let your offense function at center and also at guard and to have that depth."
The biggest concern with Faine might be his conditioning because he has not played since Oct. 10. If Faine plays, Zuttah could move to left guard.
"The real result I'm waiting for is to see how it feels (today)," Faine said of his injury. "(Wednesday), I did the whole practice, too. But (Thursday) was a live practice. … I came back and felt good. So hopefully, I'll feel the same way (today)."
Faine admitted he is not in tip-top shape.
"At the end of the day, there's nothing like a game," he said. "Luckily, I'm coming back when it's a little bit cooler than it was at the beginning of the season. It's something I'm going to have to fight through. I definitely was working a lot on cardio, but there's nothing like playing in a game."
More injuries: RT Jeremy Trueblood, who missed the past two games with a knee injury, was limited in practice along with WR Sammie Stroughter (knee). LB Quincy Black (ankle), FB Earnest Graham (hamstring), DE Kyle Moore (shoulder) and DT Ryan Sims (knee) did not practice. TE Kellen Winslow (knee) had full participation.
K2 REDUX: Winslow led the Bucs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns last season. But in the past two games, he has caught only four passes for 36 yards, including one at Arizona two weeks ago. He does not have a touchdown.
A big reason is opponents have rolled their coverage toward Winslow, who has faced more double teams.
"We've got to get him going," Morris said. "He's one of our big-time playmakers. … He's one of those guys you've got to get involved early."
Winslow said he is being patient.
"I need to get myself going," he said. "I'm ready. This is nothing new. I'm just waiting. I'll be patient."