TAMPA — Two key starters for the Bucs' offense remained sidelined with injuries Thursday. LT Anthony Collins and RB Doug Martin were held out of practice, three days before the team's game at Cleveland.
Collins, limited by a foot injury, did not practice for a second straight day and was limping as he walked around the practice field as a spectator. Martin, who had a walking boot on his injured left foot Wednesday, was out of the boot but still not participating as he recovers from a sprained ankle suffered in Sunday's loss to the Vikings.
One new injury from practice: KR Trindon Holliday, who made his Bucs debut Sunday, tweaked a hamstring, coach Lovie Smith said. His status for the Browns game was unknown. If he can't go, the Bucs could turn to other options on the roster — RB Mike James is listed as the top backup on kickoffs, RB Bobby Rainey on punts — or the practice squad, where RB Marcus Thigpen has two touchdowns on returns in his NFL career.
With Collins, the line has allowed 10 sacks in the past two games, matching the most in the NFL. As he watched Thursday, backup Oniel Cousins worked as the first-team left tackle.
Cousins, who competed for a starting guard spot in the preseason and has been limited to special-teams play during the regular season, spent the past three seasons with the Browns before signing with Tampa Bay in the offseason.
"We're confident with (Cousins). He's played in the league a long time," Smith said. "There's a reason we've had him up (active) each week. Our confidence level is high for him to step in and move into that role."
With Martin out, Rainey becomes the primary ballcarrier, though rookie Charles Sims is eligible to play for the first time after missing the first seven games with an ankle injury. Smith said he'll be careful bringing Sims along.
"He's been out a long time. It takes a while," Smith said. "When you have to make a cut, you have to push off when you have big defensive linemen yanking the ball away from you every snap. He's getting back into the flow. I don't know if he'll be ready to go this week. We'll talk on those things a little later on, maybe right up until Sunday. Eventually, soon, he will be back on the field."
SEASON STARTS WHEN? You can call Smith "Mr. November."
When asked about players and coaches being more vocal and lively during practice Thursday, Smith said it's because they realize that despite their 1-6 record, they're in a position to make something happen.
"For a man, when you're going through times like this, you just kind of listen to what everybody is saying or talking about what they have to do," Smith said. "And in order to have a little bit of life like that, you feel like something good is getting ready to happen, that we're going here (pointing up) instead of there.
"Earlier on, I talked about 71/2 minutes left to go in the second quarter. We're still in that second quarter; there's a lot of time (in the season). Football doesn't really begin until November. You get yourself in position before that. And even though our record is what it is, (we're) two games out of first place (in the NFC South), as I see it. We're in position for that to happen."