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Bucs’ Jameis Winston throws tennis ball as he works to recover from thumb injury

The quarterback has been able to play with limited practice in the past, doing it before during the 2017 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) makes a pass to a receiver during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) makes a pass to a receiver during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on Sunday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 12, 2019

TAMPA — The only promise Jameis Winston made this week in regards to a fractured bone in his right thumb is that his recovery would be gradual. And as the Bucs practiced Thursday, Winston certainly made progress in the level of work he was able to do.

No, he wasn’t throwing a football again. But as the quarterbacks practiced dropbacks and throws, Winston simulated his reps by throwing a tennis ball.

Yes, a tennis ball.

"I never threw the tennis ball myself," Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. "But it allows him to follow through, it allows him to do things as normal as possible. But I don't know. I'm going to be honest with you."

This wouldn’t the first time that Winston hasn’t been a full participant the first two days of practice and still played on Sunday. When he dealt with an AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder in the middle of the 2017 season, he missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday, then practiced Friday and played three straight weeks until re-injuring his shoulder. He was sidelined for the three following weeks.

“He’s a fifth-year guy so he’s been through this situation before. Just about every quarterback gets to this point where you probably can’t get the guy to the practice field until Friday,” Leftwich said. “It’s nothing different. We’re just making sure he’s doing everything he needs to do to try to prepare to make sure it’s as normal as possible.”

Bucs coach Bruce Arians predicted earlier this week that he’d be surprised to see left tackle Donovan Smith on the practice field before Friday as he recovers from knee and ankle injuries.

On Thursday, Josh Wells took first-team snaps at left tackle during the session of practice open to media.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard

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