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Injuries force changes to interior of Bucs offensive line

Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Joe Hawley (68) helped off the field after an injury during the second quarter of the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers center Joe Hawley (68) helped off the field after an injury during the second quarter of the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.
Published Nov. 12, 2016

TAMPA — For all the Bucs' injuries this season, they've had the luxury of starting the same five offensive linemen in every game.

That will change Sunday.

Starting LG Kevin Pamphile has been ruled out with a concussion, and C Joe Hawley is doubtful with a knee injury that sidelined him for much of the Nov. 3 loss to the Falcons, testing the interior depth of the line.

Evan Smith, the Bucs' starting center in 2014 who also started five games at guard last season, will step in at center. At left guard, they'll likely turn to rookie Caleb Benenoch, a fifth-round pick who has been inactive for all eight games and would have a big role for his NFL debut.

"I think any player — not just Caleb but any player that's out there — whenever their opportunity comes up, it's just getting over the excitement and the nerves of, 'Hey, this is my first NFL game and I'm not standing on the sideline watching,' " coach Dirk Koetter said. "These guys have all played a lot of football, and Caleb, coming out of UCLA, played at a high level, played against good teams."

MORE INJURIES: The Bucs will wait until Sunday to decide on RB Doug Martin, who returned to practice this week and was elevated to full participation Friday but has yet to be cleared to play from the hamstring injury that has cost him the past six games.

"Doug did more every day this week, he increased a little bit more," Koetter said. "Officially, as we stand here right now, officially he's still not cleared. But there's still a chance. Again, the 48 hours — we'll see what happens there."

The Bucs will be without WR Russell Shepard (hip) and RB Jacquizz Rodgers (foot), but should get DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring) for the first time since Week 4, a key boost for the defensive line.

NOT YET: WR Josh Huff, signed Monday after he was waived by the Eagles last week after an arrest on gun and marijuana charges, will not be promoted to the active roster and will remain on the practice squad this weekend, Koetter said.

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