TAMPA — On a day four players who missed Sunday's game returned to practice for the Bucs, RB Bobby Rainey watched Wednesday with a boot on his right foot, injured in the final minute of the loss to the Bengals.
"We'll see how it goes the rest of the week," coach Lovie Smith said of Rainey.
The injury to Rainey, who handled punt and kickoff return duties, explains why the Bucs have signed back rookie Solomon Patton, who handled return duties in the first six games before being waived.
Back practicing were LB Lavonte David (hamstring), C Evan Dietrich-Smith (illness), S Major Wright (shoulder) and TE Luke Stocker (concussion), who all missed Sunday's game. Still sidelined were DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring) and tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins (back) and Brandon Myers (ankle).
HAPPY RETURN: Patton spent five weeks on the practice squad of the Cardinals, whose 9-3 record matches the best in the NFL. But when the Bucs called, he had no hesitation about making make the most of another opportunity.
"Anything to be able to get back on the field. Being on the practice squad is nothing like playing the game," said Patton, a former Gators receiver who made Tampa Bay's opening-week roster as an undrafted rookie. "In these next four games, I want to do better than what I did when I was here earlier."
Patton's numbers hold up well. His punt-return average of 11.2 yards ranks sixth in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns, and his kickoff return average of 23.1 yards is better than the other three players who have gotten a shot on kickoff returns for the Bucs: Trindon Holliday (22.5), Marcus Thigpen (20) and Rainey (19).
FAIR, INDEED: It came in a losing effort, but the Bucs' special-teams unit took great pride in Bengals return man Adam Jones' first fair catch since November 2006, a span of 96 straight returns.
On the four previous Michael Koenen punts, the Bucs downed one on the 1-yard line and made tackles for no gain, no gain and a 1-yard loss.
"That might be one of the better coverage games I've seen in my career," Koenen said. "Really, they did a good job to force him to fair-catch. He hasn't done that in eight years. I was really proud of them. Our guys did awesome."
Contact Greg Auman at email@example.com at (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.