Rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander works with Bucs starters

Kwon Alexander, center, worked with the starters in Monday's practice. “What happens when you make plays? You get an opportunity to make more plays,” coach Lovie Smith says. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Kwon Alexander, center, worked with the starters in Monday's practice. “What happens when you make plays? You get an opportunity to make more plays,” coach Lovie Smith says.MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published August 18 2015

TAMPA — A day after coach Lovie Smith praised the play of rookie LB Kwon Alexander, he promoted him.

Alexander, a fourth-round draft pick from LSU, worked with the starting defense in Monday's training camp practice. Smith raved about Alexander's play in Saturday's 26-16 preseason loss at Minnesota in which Alexander was credited with four tackles. He took over for free agent Bruce Carter.

"What happens when you make plays? You get an opportunity to make more plays," Smith said. "We are looking at different combinations. … We wanted to see (Alexander) working with the different groups (Monday). That's what we got.

"We are pleased with what he has done as a rookie. Rookies, though, have a long way to go still. He's doing some things to make us notice."

Alexander, who turned 21 on Aug. 3, said he has played with a chip on his shoulder since lasting until the fourth round of the draft despite being a first-team All-SEC performer.

"It's a blessing just to be with the ones (starters)," Alexander said. "It's my dream. I wanted to come up here and start. I'm still trying to start because the decision has not been made. I'm just out here working, trying to grind and get better and better every day."

Spence suspended one game: DT Akeem Spence, already sidelined likely until October as he recovers from back surgery, has been suspended from the regular-season opener because of his arrest on a possession of marijuana charge in January 2014.

The suspension is a standard punishment for a violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Spence was stopped in Escambia County, Ala., two weeks after Smith was named coach. Spence was charged with a misdemeanor count of possession, and he finished a pretrial diversion program to have the charge dismissed.

Moving over: Sterling Moore, who played at cornerback and nickel in Dallas last year, had worked exclusively at corner in camp, but he made the move to nickel Monday. Tampa Bay gave up 284 passing yards to the Vikings.

Moore, who will compete with Leonard Johnson for the starting nickel job, said the transition shouldn't be hard and his first practice went well.

"So far, so good," he said. "I felt comfortable there. I felt like I read everything pretty well. It's just about getting some time in there. Obviously things happen a little faster when you're on the inside. I just have to get some run reads down."

The Bucs had said they were concerned about their depth at corner behind starters Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks, but Moore should upgrade the nickel package, which the Bucs used for 34 of 69 defensive snaps Saturday.

This and that: In addition to RT Demar Dotson being sidelined with a knee sprain, T Kevin Pamphile was held out with a sore triceps, leaving backup Reid Fragel to work as the first-team right tackle. … DE Jacquies Smith was held out with what Lovie Smith said was a sore shoulder, and S Chris Conte remained out with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him since the first day of camp. … Backup LB Orie Lemon was also out with an undisclosed injury. … After Garrett Gilkey struggled Saturday with two snaps that were fumbled, the Bucs had former USF lineman Jeremiah Warren as the second-string center, with Gilkey at right guard.

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] and listen from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow @NFLStroud. Contact Greg Auman at [email protected]

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