TAMPA — Rookie Mason Foster will be the Bucs' starter at middle linebacker, but he won't always be on the field.
Coach Raheem Morris says SLB Quincy Black will replace Foster in nickel passing situations, which typically occur on third down and when opponents use three receivers.
Morris indicated the rotation is more about Black's versatility than Foster's limitations.
"Fortunately, the way things are going, (Foster) is the base (middle linebacker)," Morris said. "And you're able to put Quincy in that nickel (middle linebacker). And (Foster) really gets a chance to really focus and lock on his base responsibilities. If he grows into it … that's great. But you've got to find a way to play young guys. If you don't play young guys, it's just me making excuses."
Black's versatility makes this possible. He'll be more likely to drop into pass coverage in the nickel defense, something not a major part of his usual duties. But Black isn't daunted.
"I have a job to do, and I'm ready to do it," he said. "They put me on the field, and they're trusting me to do some different things. I feel like I can do the job. Since I've been on the field, I've been pretty good with all my roles."
Foster won't have the same command in his first year. So Morris figures it's better to let him bite off only as much as he's prepared for.
"Let's give him the base stuff, (let him) pick it up, be great at it," Morris said.
"We've got Quincy Black, who we've got a lot of confidence in."
FRIDAY'S LINEUP: With the Bucs looking toward Friday night's preseason opener at Kansas City, a better feel is developing for who will play.
Morris said rookie DE Da'Quan Bowers, coming off January knee surgery, will be on a veteran-like plan, playing between 12 and 15 snaps. Bowers has been held back by coaches and trainers, sitting out a couple of practices and participating in a limited amount of contact.
"He's coming along really well," Morris said. "He's really come on when we put the pads on. We knew that was going to be his game anyway. He's a giant 280-pound end. Those guys are huge. You can see the power rush is kind of his game. … And we're starting to see it more and more now that the pads are on.
"Maybe we've been a little too cautious, but that's because of the lack of experience and time we've had with him. I think it's smart on the part of our training staff and coaching staff not to try and put too much on his plate right away."
WR Arrelious Benn, also coming off knee surgery, said he likely will dress for the game, but he does not anticipate playing. Because practice fields have been wet the past couple of days, Benn hasn't joined the padded portions of practice, as the team had originally planned. He might get back into contact next week.
The statuses of DTs Gerald McCoy (strained rotator cuff) and Brian Price (pelvis) are less certain. Morris wasn't definitive on whether either would play, and neither participated in Wednesday's afternoon practice.
"If they're out there with their groups and units, they'll play whatever everybody else plays," he said.
Price could play less as he attempts to work back into shape after his offseason weight gain.
TE Kellen Winslow and CB Aqib Talib also sat out the late practice, but it was not clear if that was an indication of whether they would play.