TAMPA — Demar Dotson, who returned to the Bucs' roster this week after missing three months with a knee injury, said he was told Wednesday morning he won't be competing for the starting right tackle job, a week after he said Lovie Smith told him he would be in the mix.
"I was told last week that I'd be … back in the lineup, and I was told this morning I wasn't," Dotson said. "It was tough, especially because I was told I was (starting). They want to keep the continuity of the O-line and all that. It's hard to accept, but it's the nature of the business. You kind of want to rely on what somebody tells you, but you realize at the end of the day it's a business."
Smith, speaking in his daily news conference after practice, disagreed with Dotson's account of their conversation, saying he had never promised a starting position to him and wouldn't with any player.
"Demar Dotson was told last week that he would be active, that he would be ready to play this week," Smith said. "I don't give out starting positions a week in advance, so I don't know exactly where you got that. He was told he would be active."
The team signed veteran Gosder Cherilus in August after Dotson was injured, and Cherilus has played every snap at right tackle. Tampa Bay went through a similar situation last month at center, where Joe Hawley took over for Evan Smith after Smith's ankle injury and kept the starting job after Smith returned.
Dotson said the coach told him he could return to a starting role once healthy, so it was "disappointing" to have that change.
"It's a little tough to accept. I was preparing myself to come back and play," Dotson said. "All I know is what I was told today: 'You're not going to be the starting right tackle.' "
INJURY UPDATE: The Bucs returned to practice with four key players — WR Vincent Jackson (knee), DE Jacquies Smith (ankle), G Ali Marpet (ankle) and DB Alterraun Verner (foot) — sidelined as the team prepares for Sunday's home game against Dallas.
"We had a couple guys, a few more guys than normal, not practicing," Lovie Smith said, noting that DT Tony McDaniel was excused from practice as well.
Verner had been checked for a concussion during Sunday's loss to the Giants and was allowed to return to the game, but Smith said his absence was related to his foot, which "got a little sore, flared up a little bit after the game."
The Bucs put Evan Smith in at right guard after Marpet's injury Sunday, and he was working there again Wednesday, saying before practice that he'll prepare as if he's starting at right guard this week. Marpet said his injury won't require surgery, but he didn't know how quickly he'd be able to return.
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The team finished Sunday's game without three injured safeties: Major Wright (hamstring) and D.J Swearinger (toe) were inactive, and Bradley McDougald left the game with a concussion. All three practiced in some capacity Wednesday.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who has missed six games with a shoulder injury, practiced again as he has the past two weeks but is still a question mark for Sunday.