TAMPA — Nobody has suggested the Bucs should have somehow anticipated the chaos of the past two weeks, with their season opener at Miami postponed until November by Hurricane Irma and players spread all over the country last weekend before returning Tuesday to prepare for this week's opener against the Bears.
But coach Dirk Koetter was a bit defensive in addressing the delay before Sunday's game — as much as a full calendar month since the last playing time for some players — by reminding that his team would have handled playing time in the preseason differently if it had known what was ahead.
"We would have planned training camp totally different had we known we were having a bye Week 1," Koetter said. "We wouldn't have done it that way. Maybe we would have played our guys in preseason (finale). You've got to remember: We didn't know that. We didn't know any of that. We found that out (last) Wednesday, the last day we kissed them goodbye. Every time I've been there, you've known your bye week about eight months in advance. We knew ours about one day in advance."
Koetter said this week's practices have improved each day since the team's first full practice Wednesday — "progressively better every day … just makes sense."
Before Sunday's game, the Bucs will honor first responders who have led relief efforts during Hurricane Irma, with representatives from Tampa police and fire rescue as well as the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office leading the team out of the tunnel. Other local law enforcement officers will be honorary guests for the coin toss, and the proceeds from the game's 50-50 raffle will be donated to the American Red Cross, in addition to the $1 million donation made this week by the Glazer family.
The two Bucs players who were dealing with illness Thursday — LB Kwon Alexander was limited in practice, OL Evan Smith was held out entirely — were both upgraded Friday, with Alexander listed as a full participant and Smith listed as being limited.
"That's always something that can come up," coach Dirk Koetter said. "If a guy wakes up on game day and he is sick, the next guy has got to be ready to go."
Alexander and Smith are officially questionable for Sunday. The only Bucs player ruled out is LB Devante Bond, who has practiced this week but is recovering from a knee injury last month. The Bears have eight players questionable — including RB Jordan Howard — and another doubtful.
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