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Thursday, Dec 14, 2017
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Injured Doug Martin, Robert Ayers return to full Bucs practice

TAMPA — A week after putting two players on injured reserve and having another seven sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Packers, the Bucs are making small progress toward getting healthier.

RB Doug Martin and DE Robert Ayers, who have been sidelined by concussions, were full participants in Wednesday’s practice, an important step toward being released from concussion protocol and cleared to return to playing.

"They have to still see an independent neurologist," coach Dirk Koetter said. "That is the final step, and that could happen as soon as (Thursday)."

RELATED: Bucs’ poor defense has coordinator Mike Smith on shaky ground.

The Bucs are already short-handed at defensive end, and Ryan Russell, who started in Ayers’ place Sunday, didn’t practice Wednesday because of a knee injury. At running back, Martin’s return would leave Koetter choosing between the underperforming former Pro Bowl back and Peyton Barber, who stepped up with 102 yards in Martin’s place Sunday.

Five others remained sidelined with injuries: S T.J. Ward (concussion), DT Clinton McDonald (back), CB Vernon Hargreaves (hamstring), DB Josh Robinson (hamstring) and C Joe Hawley (illness). QB Jameis Winston was included on the official injury report with an ankle injury, but he had full participation in practice and is expected to play Sunday against the Lions at Raymond James Stadium.

Stay positive

DT Gerald McCoy, trying to keep spirits high in a 4-8 locker room, respectfully said that he wasn’t answering negative questions about his team.

"There’s been so much negativity going on, if you have anything involving negativity, I’m not going to answer it," McCoy said. "There’s too much bad energy, negativity going on. If you have something positive, let’s talk about it. I’m done answering negative questions."

Given that, McCoy said he’s excited to have three of the last four games this season at home:

"We are in front of our fans. I know they have been disappointed with us the past few games, so we are at home. We like to put on a show for our fans, so we’ve just go to make sure we do that well. … They deserve it. They send out great energy across Tampa."

RELATED: How 0-26 still sticks to the Bucs.

This and that

The Bucs continue to tweak their practice squad. After adding DE Sterling Bailey on Tuesday, they brought back DB Cody Riggs, who had been with them in preseason. Former Wisconsin RB Dare Ogunbowale was released to make room for Riggs. … DB Javien Elliott, who started out at Florida State as a walkon, said he wished his former coach Jimbo Fisher well at Texas A&M. "Jimbo gave me a scholarship. I appreciate what he did," Elliott said. "I understand why he left. He has a legacy at Florida State, a national championship there. I wish him luck where he’s going."

RELATED: No, really: How the Bucs (4-8) can still make the playoffs.

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

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