TAMPA — Barring any late surprises, the Bucs will have G Carl Nicks in the starting lineup for Sunday's game at New England, the first time he and G Davin Joseph will line up together in their two seasons in Tampa Bay.
"It feels really good to get back to work, to feel like I'm contributing to the team, not feeling useless," Nicks said after Friday's practice. "I'm hiding it well, but I'm very excited."
Joseph missed all of last season with a torn left patellar tendon. Nicks has been sidelined by a toe injury — and for a time by a staph infection, MRSA — and sat out the first two games.
"The MRSA thing happened so fast, and with the toe, I always just assumed I'd come back," he said. "It just took a lot longer than I thought."
Nicks joins the team knowing as difficult as it will be to beat the Patriots on the road, it's crucial to get the first win.
"No one wants to be 0-3, and we're hungry for our first W," he said. "If we execute and don't turn the ball over, we should win."
TALKING AGAIN: Bucs WR Vincent Jackson, who hasn't spoken after games, had little to say about the two losses by a combined three points to the Jets and Saints except reduce penalties and finish.
"You look across the league. Each and every year games are getting closer and closer," Jackson said. "So it's about finishing games, putting yourself in position to win at the end. I think we can finish better, and we'll get the results we want.
"I think the biggest thing is penalties, setting yourself back. It's hard to get drives going when you're going backward and not forward. As long as we're taking care of the football, we're eliminating mental errors and not going backwards in penalties, I think this offense can do just fine."
Jackson leads the Bucs in catches (12) and yards (231).
"I feel solid. I'm excited about our offense," he said. "I think we'll continue to grow, continue to become more efficient with things we're calling and getting the ball around to different guys. I think we're doing well as an offense."
BLOUNT FORCE: The team will get its first regular-season look at RB LeGarrette Blount, whom it traded during this year's draft for a seventh-round pick and the rights to world-class sprinter and RB Jeff Demps. But Blount, who lost his starting job to Doug Martin last season, said he has no added incentives.
"I'm a Patriots player now," Blount said this week. "I don't play for the Bucs anymore. I don't look at them as a former team. I look at them as somebody I've got to play against; just like everybody else."
Blount is the main kickoff returner, averaging 20 yards. He has just 11 carries for 26 yards but could see more action Sunday with RB Shane Vereen (wrist) out.
Sitting: Gabe Carimi, who started for Nicks but has been ill for more than a week, will not play Sunday, Schiano said.