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Lavonte David gets clearance to play against Panthers

The Bucs’ Lavonte David, against the Vikings on Oct. 26, was being evaluated for a concussion.
The Bucs’ Lavonte David, against the Vikings on Oct. 26, was being evaluated for a concussion.
Published Dec. 12, 2014

TAMPA — LB Lavonte David has been medically cleared and is "good to go" Sunday after completing the league's concussion protocol, coach Lovie Smith said Thursday.

"He seemed like he's back to 100 percent," Smith said.

David left Sunday's game against the Lions after his head collided with WR Calvin Johnson's knee. He was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice because of a possible concussion.

With David improving and seemingly ready to play against the Panthers, Smith said the next focus is on getting the Pro Bowl candidate more big plays. After posting seven sacks and five interceptions last season, David doesn't have any of either this year.

"Lavonte will tell you that he wants more interceptions," Smith said. "We've got to get him on that big-play chart more, which he's capable of doing. There's no limit to what he can do with his physical ability."

DT Clinton McDonald (hamstring) and S Major Wright (ribs) were sidelined at practice. RB Bobby Rainey was back for the first time since his ankle injury. LB Mason Foster, held out of practice Wednesday as he recovers from an Achilles injury, was also back at practice.

STOPPING BENJAMIN: Carolina WR Kelvin Benjamin starred in his NFL debut, exploding for six catches, 92 yards and a touchdown in the Panthers' 20-14 win over the Bucs in the season opener.

Since then, the former Florida State standout has become one of the top two rookie receivers in yards (848), catches (59) and touchdowns (nine).

Bucs CB Alterraun Verner said the biggest difference he has seen in Benjamin since the opener is his confidence. Instead of quietly releasing from the line and making catches, Benjamin has started to get into defensive backs' faces. "You can just see the confidence building with him," Verner said.

Benjamin is the latest big body the Bucs have had to try to stop, after Johnson and Bears WR Brandon Marshall.

The Bucs don't have a defensive back with the size to rival Benjamin's (6 feet 5, 240 pounds), so defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said the key will be whether cornerbacks can use their speed and athleticism is to get into the right positions to make plays.

"(Benjamin is) going to be a good receiver in our league for a while," Frazier said.

PLAYING HURT: DT Gerald McCoy wouldn't reveal the extent of the right knee injury that forced him to leave Sunday's game for a few series. Smith called it a bruise. What wasn't in question was McCoy's determination to return to the field at less than 100 percent.

"I love my team, and I feel like my team needs me, not just every Sunday but every day," McCoy said. "There is no room for error with me. I feel like regardless what happens, my team needs me. It's not even just from my performance but from my mentality, my leadership ability and my presence.

"I see my guys out there competing and giving it everything they had. I've been out before and didn't have an opportunity to go out there at that point. This time I had an opportunity to go in, and I was out there. I told them I would be back and went out there and competed."

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Did team doctors tell him it was okay to play?

"I just went back out there," McCoy said. "I was going to play, so I played."

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