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Bucs receiver Mike Evans to be held out of last two preseason games

 
Bucs receiver Mike Evans can’t reach a long pass thrown by Jameis Winston during Monday’s game against Cincinnati.
Bucs receiver Mike Evans can’t reach a long pass thrown by Jameis Winston during Monday’s game against Cincinnati.
Published Aug. 26, 2015

TAMPA — The first completed pass from Jameis Winston to Mike Evans will have to wait for the regular season.

Evans, who left Monday night's preseason victory over the Bengals early with a hamstring injury, will be held out of the Bucs' final two preseason games, being careful not to aggravate the injury.

"If a guy has a hamstring injury, he's going to be out a while. … We'll take every precaution with hamstrings, always, with me," coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday afternoon, preparing for a short week before playing host to the Browns on Saturday night.

The second-year receiver, who led the team with 12 touchdown catches as a rookie, said the hamstring "stiffened" during Monday's game. He had no catches in the first two games, with starters playing limited snaps. Winston missed on two deep passes to him Monday.

Smith has been very careful with hamstrings. S Chris Conte hasn't practiced in more than three weeks since injuring his on the first day of training camp, though Smith said Conte should be able to return "fairly soon."

INJURIES: Winston rolled his right ankle on a second-quarter sack and left shortly after, but Smith said he expected Winston to play Saturday.

Smith said nickel DB Leonard Johnson, who injured his ankle Monday, will not play Saturday, but wouldn't say whether the injury would sideline him for the season opener against Tennessee on Sept. 13.

TE Luke Stocker was held out of Monday's game with a nose injury, Smith said, but is likely to practice today. C Evan Smith was held out with a groin injury suffered in Sunday's walkthrough but said after the game he wouldn't be sidelined long.

CROWD DROPOFF: Monday's crowd at Raymond James Stadium was limited, partly because it was either the night before or night after the first day of school in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties.

The announced attendance (based on tickets distributed) was 47,728; actual attendance, according to the Tampa Sports Authority, was 33,124. That's less than 200 fans more than half of the total seating capacity, and the actual attendance was about 6,000 less than for last year's first home preseason game against the Dolphins.

SOLID STARTS: The Bucs had two backups starting on the offensive line Monday — Jeremiah Warren at center and Reid Fragel at right tackle — because of injuries to starters,. Neither had a penalty on a night when the Bucs committed 15, and Lovie Smith was pleased with how they handled the larger role.

"I talk a lot to the team about doing something: Make us put you on the football team," he said. "Use the opportunity that you have. For Reid and Jeremiah, they had a great opportunity and they both met the challenge, made us take notice."

The two aren't likely to stay as starters with Evan Smith getting healthy and newly signed Gosder Cherilus getting his bearings, but Monday's performance could help Warren and Fragel stick as backups.

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THIS AND THAT: Rookie LB Kwon Alexander leads the Bucs with eight total tackles through two games, with DL Will Gholston next at seven. … Rookie WR Adam Humphries made a strong impression Monday — the only three passes thrown to him were all on third downs and all resulted in first downs. Humphries went 3-for-3 on third-down conversions, while the rest of the team went 2-for-11. … DE George Johnson played 15 snaps, and made the most of it. He tied for the team lead with four tackles, and had 11/2 sacks and two hurries. Nine of the Bucs' 11 defensive starters played 15 snaps or fewer.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.