Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Jenkins set to start for Bucs at cornerback

TAMPA — CB Mike Jenkins missed training camp and the preseason with a leg injury, but the former USF standout could feel right at home in the starting lineup Sunday against Carolina.

Coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday that Jenkins won't be able to play the full game and will need to be spelled by Johnthan Banks, the team's second-round draft pick in 2013 who started 16 games last season and held the position in the preseason.

"It's a concern. It's not an ideal world for us for (Jenkins) to miss all that time," Smith said. "But conditioning-wise, Mike has been conditioned. We took our time with him. We wanted to make sure he was pretty much 100 percent before we put him out there.

"But he's been running. As Mike said, 'Hey, I've been running in Florida a long time.' It's not like we're going to play him 60 reps this week. We'll ease him back into the mix. There's a good chance all three guys will play."

Jenkins' name atop the depth chart with Alterraun Verner carries weight this week, Smith said.

"If it's close and one player performs better in practice, we'll make that move, too," Smith said. "Of course, things can change. But for the most part, this is who we're going with."

WRIGHT STUFF: S Major Wright, perhaps the most surprising of the Bucs' final cuts, is back on the roster, re-signed as the Bucs shifted rookie RB Charles Sims to the injured reserve-designated for return list.

Sims has two months to recover from ankle surgery and is eligible to play again starting in Week 9. His injury originally called for a recovery period of 12-14 weeks, which would allow him to play the second half of his rookie season.

Wright gives the Bucs much-needed depth at safety, rejoining Keith Tandy as the top backups to starters Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson. With Bradley McDougald sidelined by a knee injury, the Bucs would have had only three healthy safeties Sunday. Wright missed the final preseason game with a bruised lower back but could return for the opener.

Wright, who starred at Florida, played for Smith in Chicago, and Smith said Monday that Wright was a difficult cut to make.

"I've been with Major Wright to know how he performs, how he'll handle game day and just what he's bringing to the table," Smith said.

TEDFORD IMPROVING: Offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford stopped by One Buc Place on Tuesday, but it remained unclear whether he would be able to call plays Sunday.

Tedford had an undisclosed medical procedure last week. Smith has said little else about Tedford, other than that the first-year NFL coordinator is improving. Smith said doctors must clear Tedford before he can return to his role full time. Until then, Smith and the offensive staff are coming up with the game plan.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera said it won't matter to his staff's preparation whether Tedford is healthy enough to call the plays or whether quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo does so for the second consecutive game.

"Even though Marcus Arroyo has been a coordinator in college football, it's still Jeff Tedford's offense," Rivera said.

"To me, you prepare for what they do and react as the play's coming. That has to be the mentality. You react to what the offense is doing. You react to their formations. You react to their actions. That's what we're going to do, whether Coach Tedford's calling it or Coach Arroyo's calling it."

INJURY UPDATES: After missing the final three preseason games, DL Da'Quan Bowers (abdomen) didn't participate in practice. Smith said Bowers is improving but isn't ready to return to the field.

DE William Gholston (shoulder), McDougald (knee), CB Rashaan Melvin (CB) and WR Louis Murphy (back) also didn't participate. FB Jorvorskie Lane (hand) and RB Mike James (shoulder) were limited.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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