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Bucs hold rare Tuesday practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith looks on while on the sidelines during the final three minutes of the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Sunday 12/21/14.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith looks on while on the sidelines during the final three minutes of the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Sunday 12/21/14.
Published Dec. 24, 2014

TAMPA — To give players and coaches the day off on Christmas, the Bucs practiced Tuesday, normally an off day in the traditional game week, but coach Lovie Smith won't comment on specific injuries until the league requires him to today.

"You'll see tomorrow we're in pretty good shape," said Smith, preparing for Sunday's finale against the Saints and still seeking his first home win and first division win in a 2-13 season.

Starting LG Logan Mankins sat out Tuesday's drills — possibly just a veteran's day off — as did MLB Mason Foster, who was limited to 10 snaps Sunday as he aggravated an Achilles injury that sidelined him the previous two games.

With Mankins sidelined, the Bucs had backup Garrett Gilkey, who has struggled with penalties and sacks when pressed into playing time by injuries, working with the first-team line. Gilkey played only two offensive snaps in Sunday's loss to Green Bay, giving up a sack.

Backup nickel DB Isaiah Frey, who missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, was out Tuesday.

SLOW START: Inactive for six of the past seven games with no catches in two months, sixth-round pick Robert Herron has had a quiet rookie season. But Smith said it's too early to say the team is disappointed with his progress.

"Sometimes numbers really do get you," Smith said Tuesday. "There's not a whole lot of room — you talk about Vincent (Jackson), you talk about Mike (Evans), and Louis Murphy (is on injured reserve), but he's been pretty good too. It's no indictment against him. It just wasn't his time."

Herron has six catches for 58 yards this season, including a 9-yard touchdown in the first meeting with the Saints. Because he doesn't play special teams, he has not seen the field much — and he was on the field as a 12th player when the Bucs were flagged, negating a key gain, in the final minute of a close loss at Cleveland.

Smith said it'll be important that Herron works hard for next season.

"Offseason, big for him also," Smith said. "You saw that speed, that quickness. We've seen an awful lot on the practice squad. I think he's right about where he should be for where he came onto our football team."

SIGNED: Former Wisconsin and Raiders S Shelton Johnson signed to the practice squad. Johnson, 24, had three tackles last year in four games with Oakland, which waived him in August with an injury settlement.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.

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