TAMPA — The Bucs activated second-leading tackler Lavonte David and reserve running back Giovani Bernard from injured reserve on Saturday, less than 24 hours before their playoff opener.
But they weren’t able to do the same for running back Leonard Fournette (hamstring), their leading rusher and third-leading pass catcher, depriving Tom Brady of a pivotal backfield weapon for Sunday’s NFC wild-card game against the Eagles.
With Ronald Jones (ankle) still out, the Bucs enter the postseason with a potential backfield of Bernard, second-year reserve Ke’Shawn Vaughn, veteran Le’Veon Bell and practice-squad veteran Kenjon Barner, who was elevated Saturday, along with tight end Codey McElroy. Bernard officially is listed as questionable for today.
To create roster space, reserve cornerback Rashard Robinson, who appeared primarily on special teams in seven games, and receiver Justin Watson were released.
Whether David (foot) plays today remains unclear. On Friday, coach Bruce Arians said that of the team’s most prominent injured players, David and Fournette appeared the most questionable. David, Fournette and Bernard all began their 21-day practice window earlier in the week, meaning they were eligible to come off IR at any time.
David’s status likely will be evaluated during pregame.
The 10-year veteran’s presence, if healthy, would be enormous against the league’s top-ranked rushing offense, and it potentially could help lift fellow inside linebacker Devin White out of his late-season funk (10 tackles in past three games).
Fournette, destined for a 1,000-yard rushing season before injuring his hamstring Dec. 12 in a loss to the Saints, ended the regular season with 1,266 total yards, including 454 yards on 69 receptions.
Bernard, 30, hasn’t played since sustaining hip and knee injuries in a Week 14 victory against the Bills. A viable target out of the backfield, he had 23 catches for 123 yards and three touchdowns in 12 regular-season games.
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