TAMPA — The extra rest following a Thursday night loss to the Patriots may have benefited four Bucs defensive starters who missed the game with injuries.
Linebackers Kwon Alexander (hamstring) and Lavonte David (ankle), and safeties T.J. Ward (hip) and Keith Tandy (hip) returned to practice Wednesday, their first step in returning to the lineup. All four were listed as having limited participation.
Alexander hasn't played since the season opener against the Bears, against whom he aggravated a hamstring injury he suffered in the preseason. David's ankle injury suffered against the Vikings the next week — he had to be carted off the field — turned out not to be as serious as first thought but forced him to miss two games. Ward missed two games and Tandy one.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said that if nothing else, the presence of Alexander and David gives the Bucs an emotional lift.
"Any time you get your top-level (linebackers) back, it's a jolt to the defense and probably a jolt to the entire team," Smith said. "We want to have our best players out there, and unfortunately we haven't been able to have our best players out there over the last four or five weeks. But hey, we are hoping that we get as healthy as we possibly can."
Special-teams captain Josh Robinson, who had been in concussion protocol as recently as Wednesday morning, also practiced in the afternoon, but that doesn't always indicate that a player is out of the protocol and cleared to play. He had full participation. DE Robert Ayers was limited with a back injury, and C Ali Marpet was limited with an illness. DE Ryan Russell, who injured a shoulder against the Patriots, did not practice.
"Good to have the guys back and start working again," coach Dirk Koetter said.
A.P. to the rescue
The Cardinals hope Adrian Peterson can jump-start the NFL's worst rushing attack, and he will get a chance to do that Sunday against the Bucs.
Peterson, who was traded by the Saints this week for a conditional late-round draft pick, will get the ball often Sunday despite having only a few days of practice with the Cardinals.
"He's run our style of offense for a while, and it's just learning terminology," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "But we plan on getting him the football and see if we can get our running game started."
With RB David Johnson on injured reserve with a wrist injury, the Cardinals are averaging a league-worst 51.8 yards per game rushing and have only one rushing touchdown.
"He's a big, strong guy that runs violently," Smith said of Peterson. "As I said earlier, if you don't get the pads on him and you don't get multiple sets and take good angles, he's going to break tackles. He hasn't had an opportunity for one reason or another in New Orleans to get many touches, so he's going to be fresh."
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McCoy warns of protest 'uproar'
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy, interviewed on an ESPN podcast, said Tuesday that there will be an "uproar" if the NFL moves forward with a proposal that would keep players from kneeling in protest during the national anthem: "I think it's going to be a negative reaction," he said. "I don't think guys are going to like it. I think it's going to be an uproar if that is to happen, because you're basically taking away a constitutional right to freedom of speech. If guys want to have, I guess you'd call it a peaceful protest, I don't think it's right to take that away from guys."