Tampa Bay had several injured players limited in practice on Wednesday, including WRs Michael Clayton (knee) and Antonio Bryant (groin), S Tanard Jackson (knee) and TE Kellen Winslow (knee). The 2-12 Bucs are hoping to have those players play against the 13-1 Saints, who are banged up.
A few injured Tampa Bay Buccaneers players returned to practice Wednesday, including wide receiver Michael Clayton (knee) and tight end John Gilmore (head).
Clayton has missed three straight games due to a knee injury he sustained in Atlanta on Nov. 29. The former first-round pick has just 14 catches for 204 yards and one touchdown in 2009.
In addition to Clayton and Gilmore, Bucs WR Antonio Bryant (groin), running back Cadillac Williams (team decision), tight end Kellen Winslow (knee) and safety Tanard Jackson (knee) were limited. Gilmore still is listed on the injury report, but with an illness.
Winslow and Bryant are Tampa Bay's leading receivers with 68 and 32 receptions, respectively. The Bucs are hoping they can play since the team had to place rookie WR Sammie Stroughter (foot), who had 32 catches for 533 yards and one score, on injured reserve earlier this week.
Should he be deemed healthy enough to play in New Orleans, Clayton might not return to the starting lineup. Stroughter handled most of Tampa Bay's slot receiver responsibilities. The Bucs might elect to keep Maurice Stovall in the starting lineup and use Clayton as a slot receiver in place of Stroughter.
That, of course, will depend on whether Clayton can play vs. the Saints.
"[Clayton] was out at practice today," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. "He's looking to return. We'll have to see how he progresses throughout the week."
The Bucs could also turn to Winslow to play some slot receiver for the team, which is something the athletic tight end has done frome time to time throughout the year.
The fact that Jackson even participated in practice Wednesday is an encouraging sign to the Bucs. Tampa Bay's starting free safety left Sunday's game early due to the knee ailment he sustained.
Despite missing the first four games of the 2009 regular season due to suspension, Jackson ranks second on the team in interceptions with four. The Bucs could use Jackson in New Orleans, where they will be charged with the difficult task of slowing down the Saints' No. 1-ranked offense, which is led by quarterback Drew Brees.
"It's minor, but he got that in the game, so he's banged up a little bit," Morris said of Jackson. "We have to see where we are at the end of the week. He's a tough kid, so we just have to see."
The Saints have their fair share of injuries heading into this NFC South division rivalry.
New Orleans S Usama Young (hip/abdomen), WR Lance Moore (ankle), LB Scott Shanle (concussion) and S Darren Sharper (knee) were held out of Wednesday's practice.
Several Saints players were limited, including DT Sedrick Ellis (knee), T Jon Stinchcomb (knee), DE Bobby McCray (back), TE Jeremy Shockey (toe), LB Scott Fujita (knee), C Jonathan Goodwin (ankle), T Jermon Bushrod (thumb), G Jahri Evans (toe), LB Jonathan Vilma (knee), RB Reggie Bush (hamstring), TE Darnell Dinkins (foot) and CB Jabari Greer.
The Bucs are scheduled to practice on the morning of Christmas Eve and the afternoon of Christmas Day before kicking off in New Orleans at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
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