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Shorts, Humphries injuries leave Bucs dangerously thin at receiver

Bucs wide receiver Cecil Shorts is carted off the field after sustaining a season-ending knee injury Sunday against the Chargers.
Bucs wide receiver Cecil Shorts is carted off the field after sustaining a season-ending knee injury Sunday against the Chargers.
Published Dec. 6, 2016

TAMPA — With Cecil Shorts done for the year with a major knee injury and Adam Humphries in concussion protocol, the Bucs are again scrambling to replenish an already depleted group of receivers as they go for their fifth straight win Sunday at home against the Saints.

"We're concerned. We finished the game with three wide receivers," coach Dirk Koetter said of Sunday's 28-21 win at San Diego. "I think we'll be okay."

The Bucs have leaned heavily on Mike Evans, who is on course to set team receiving records, and have Russell Shepard as well, with seldom-used Freddie Martino stepping up Sunday with four catches — double his career total — for 56 yards. Koetter said there are more options in-house to help offset the latest injuries.

"I feel like we still have two guys on our practice squad that are ready to come up and help us at any time," Koetter said of former Eagle Josh Huff and former Buc Donteea Dye, both of whom have played in the NFL before. "I don't think we're in dire straits, but we've got to have roster spots (opened to make room), too."

Shorts, who had 11 catches for 152 yards in nine games with the Bucs, tore three ligaments in his right knee — ACL, MCL and PCL — with a dislocation that will end his season and require a lengthy rehab.

"I just wanted to say thank you for all your thoughts and prayers for our family in this tough time," Shorts said in an Instagram video from his hospital bed in California. "It's going to be a tough journey, but something we definitely can get through."

WELCOME BACK: For the second week in a row, the Bucs will have a key running back come back from injury, as Koetter said RB Charles Sims will be reinstated from injured reserve to play against the Saints.

Jacquizz Rodgers returned from a four-week absence Sunday, getting a key first down late to allow the Bucs to run out the clock on the Chargers. Doug Martin didn't finish the game after he was "bent back" on his ankle with five minutes left in the third quarter but said he was "doing fine" after the game.

EXCUSED: Koetter said CB Alterraun Verner stayed in California and will be excused from Wednesday's and Thursday's practices while he is with family for the memorial service for his father, Robert, who died 10 days ago of a heart attack while visiting his son in Tampa.

The Bucs made a personnel change in the second half Sunday, bringing in rookie Javien Elliott as the nickel cornerback to allow rookie Vernon Hargreaves to stay as an outside corner at all times, taking Verner off the field. He'll likely be limited to a special teams role after returning to the team Friday.

Contact Greg Auman at gauman@tampabay.com and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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