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Mike Evans returns to practice, eyes playing Sunday

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) hauls in a second quarter touchdown pass in front of Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday (11/9/14).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) hauls in a second quarter touchdown pass in front of Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford (23) during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday (11/9/14).
Published Sep. 12, 2015

TAMPA — Rookie QB Jameis Winston might have the Bucs' best receiver for his NFL debut Sunday against the Titans.

Mike Evans, who had not practiced since straining a hamstring Aug. 24, was back in uniform and returned to action in workouts Friday. The second-year player is listed as questionable for the season opener.

"I'm feeling great. There's no official ruling yet," Evans said. "I hope I'm playing. I'll leave it up to Coach, though.

"I've been running. But it's the first time I ran some routes at full speed and felt pretty good."

The return of Evans would be a huge lift for Winston. Though he did not catch a pass in the preseason, Evans led Tampa Bay in receiving yards as a rookie last season with 68 catches for 1,051 yards while tying a team record with 12 touchdowns.

"It's Friday, keep that in mind," coach Lovie Smith said. "But (Evans) was able to run around a little bit. He didn't have any pain or anything like that, so we're on the road to recovery. How soon he gets back to full speed, how soon he's ready to actually play, each day will tell us a little more."

Two other players were added to the injury list. Starting DE George Johnson was recovering from an illness he came down with Thursday but is listed as probable. Backup CB Mike Jenkins (hamstring) did not practice and is questionable.

The only player listed as out for the game is DE T.J. Fatinikun with a shoulder injury.

SELLING OUT: The Bucs were nearing a sellout for the game, with fewer than 1,000 general admission tickets left.

A sellout would continue an encouraging upward trend for the franchise, which has seen its announced attendance for home openers increase every year since 2010: 47,211 that year, 51,274 in 2011, 51,533 in 2012, 60,870 in 2013 and 62,442 last season. If Sunday's game sells out, it would be the team's first sellout in a home opener since 2009, when it did so with the Cowboys in town.

"A smile has to come to your face when you hear that," Smith said. "Last year we didn't do our job. The fans did. It's good that they've come back out, giving us another chance to get it right.

"One of our goals we have is to win all our home games. We have to get that started with the first one. So, yes, in an ideal world, you want to start off at home and use that home crowd.

"In order to use the home crowd, of course you're going to cheer when points are scored and big things happen, but the home crowd can really help the defense out an awful lot and make it hard on the communication and things like that (for the opponent). We're counting on the crowd to get there early. We want to hear that cannon go off quite a bit (for scores)."

The team's November home game against the Cowboys continues to be its most expensive ticket on the secondary market. On stubhub.com, the cheapest tickets for that game are $115. The cheapest seats for the remaining home games, in descending order, are Giants ($72), Bears ($52), Titans ($48), Jaguars ($31), Panthers ($28), Saints ($25) and Falcons ($25).

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