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Leonard Fournette still nursing sore hip as Bucs begin preparations for Browns

Meantime, nose tackle Vita Vea missed Wednesday’s practice with a foot injury.
Published Nov. 23|Updated Nov. 26

TAMPA — The questions about the Bucs’ tailback rotation in the wake of rookie Rachaad White’s breakthrough performance in Germany might linger a bit longer.

White might — just might — get the bulk of the carries Sunday against the Browns by default.

Coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday that veteran Leonard Fournette remains “pretty sore” after suffering a hip pointer in the 21-16 win against the Seahawks on Nov. 13. Fournette was seen stretching with the team during the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to reporters and formally was listed as a limited participant.

Absent altogether from the workout was nose tackle Vita Vea, whom Bowles said is dealing with an unspecified foot injury.

“We’ll see how the week goes,” Bowles said. “If (Fournette) progresses and gets better to where he can run at full speed, then he’ll play. If not, then he won’t.”

The Fournette-White tandem combined for 162 rushing yards against the Seahawks, though White (22 carries, 105 yards) stole the show with his viral stiff-arm of Seahawks defensive back Quandre Diggs during a lengthy downfield run. Nonetheless, Tampa Bay remains last in the NFL in rushing offense (70.7 yards per game).

“You saw what (White) can bring,” Bowles said. “He’s very athletic, he gives us a lot. Lenny gives us a lot as well. It depends on who gets hot at a certain time. We’ll ride that hand.”

As for run defense, the possible absence of Vea could hinder a unit coming off arguably its best effort of the year. The Bucs held Seattle — then the league’s 10th-best rushing team — to 39 yards, nearly 100 shy of its season average entering the game (133.8).

A key to the congestion of run lanes was the complementary tandem of Vea (347 pounds) and fellow veteran Akiem Hicks (324), who combined for 32 and 33 snaps, respectively.

“We’ll see how it goes during the week (for Vea),” Bowles said.

Leverett still the starter

Bowles confirmed that Nick Leverett will make his fourth consecutive start at left guard Sunday, though beleaguered rookie Luke Goedeke — starter for the first seven contests — has returned to practice following a foot injury.

“Right now, we’re planning on starting Leverett,” Bowles said. “Luke isn’t ready right now; it’s his first day back in pads.”

Leverett widely has been deemed an upgrade at the position since assuming the starting job. During that three-game stretch, he has allowed two quarterback pressures, one hurry and one hit in 227 snaps, according to pff.com. By contrast, Goedeke has allowed 22 pressures over 457 snaps.

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“Yeah, (Leverett) has done a good job,” quarterback Tom Brady said Wednesday. “Certainly the communication’s really important, he does a good job of that. ... Everyone has a lot of confidence in Nick. He goes in and he fights his tail off. That’s all you can ask for, and everyone loves having him in there.”

David nominated for sportsmanship honor

Veteran linebacker Lavonte David again is the Bucs’ nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to the player who best demonstrates on-field sportsmanship, respect for the game and opponents, and exhibits integrity in competition.

David, 33, has been a finalist for the award the previous four seasons. He’s trying to become the first Tampa Bay player to win the award, established in 2014.

A panel of former players — including former Bucs star Warrick Dunn — select eight finalists (four from each conference). The finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when players vote in December.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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