TAMPA — The Bucs knew they might be playing without DT Gerald McCoy, who suffered a biceps injury early in Sunday's loss to the Lions. But now they face the prospect of playing Monday against Atlanta without another of their defensive leaders, as LB Lavonte David was held out of practice Thursday with a hamstring injury.
Coach Dirk Koetter conceded the Bucs were "a little nicked up at linebacker" on Thursday, and David was on the field at the start of practice with the linebackers, but without a helmet on.
David is second in the NFL with five forced fumbles this season and leads the league with five fumble recoveries. He also leads the team with 84 total tackles, despite missing two games early in the year with an ankle injury.
McCoy also didn't practice Thursday, but was hopeful of being able to play, his injury not being as severe as was feared after Sunday's game.
"It's viable," Koetter said of McCoy playing against Atlanta. "Gerald is doing everything he possibly can to play Monday night. … They've told him this is something that doesn't need to be surgically repaired, and that (he is) not going to make it worse by playing. It's a matter of 'Can he play at the level he's used to playing at?'?"
G J.R. Sweezy was held out Thursday with a shin injury, while C Joe Hawley continues to be limited by an illness, 11 days after it caused him to miss the Bucs' game in Green Bay.
The Bucs did have good news on the injury front, as S T.J. Ward (concussion) practiced for the first time since he suffered the injury against Atlanta three weeks ago. CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring) practiced for the first time in more than a month.
Four other Bucs had limited participation due to injuries Thursday: TE Cameron Brate (hip), DT Clinton McDonald (back), DB Josh Robinson (hamstring) and OT Donovan Smith (shoulder).
Falcons WR Julio Jones went off for 253 yards and two touchdowns in the first meeting with the Bucs three weeks ago, and Koetter joked that his defense would do what is necessary to contain him Monday.
"We're going to put 10 guys on him and then just leave one guy over the center," Koetter joked in a conference call with Falcons reporters.
This and that
It's a big week for Hargreaves, who returned to practice the same day his father, Vernon, was hired as the linebackers coach at Missouri. The former USF assistant at Arkansas. Hargreaves' sister, Chanelle, also a Wharton grad, is competing at the NCAA Final Four as part of the Gators volleyball team. … CB Deji Olatoye, cut by the Bucs this week, signed Thursday with the Falcons, so he could line up against Tampa Bay on Monday. He played two games with Atlanta in September as well. … Former Hillsborough High and USF LB Nigel Harris had his first practice after joining the Bucs' practice squad. "It's about pride. You have to do anything you can to get the home team back on top," Harris said. "That's what I'm here to do."
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Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.