The Bucs got some good news on the injury front on Wednesday and C Jeff Faine and RT Jeremy Trueblood returned to practice. Faine has missed the last three and a half games due to a torn quad, while Trueblood missed last week due to a knee sprain. Both could be able to play on Sunday at Atlanta.
On Wednesday, Buccaneers center Jeff Faine returned to practice for the first time since tearing his quadriceps muscle at Cincinnati in Week 5. Faine injured his leg in the first half against the Bengals and had to miss the second half and the next three games.
“I’m getting out there today and see how it feels,” Faine said. “I’ll take it day by day, but right now we’re going to go out there and test it a little bit and see how it feels. It’s coming along well and we’re ahead of schedule. It’s definitely responded extremely, extremely well. Usually I heal a lot faster than the original prognosis.”
Faine said that if his leg doesn’t give him any problems in practice this week he has a chance to play at Atlanta this week.
“Yeah, we’re going to go out there and see how it feels and see what happens,” Faine said. “There’s no helmets, so it’s going to be [a] naturally light [practice]. I think the best test will be the following day. Just to even get out there with the guys and get in the position and kind of move around.”
When Faine returns to the starting lineup his replacement, Jeremy Zuttah, will slide over to left guard, a position he started all 16 games at last year. Zuttah lost his starting job this year to veteran Keydrick Vincent, who was signed in July but released last week after injuring his back. However, Zuttah has played exceptionally well at center in Faine’s absence and has earned the right to start again.
“I think he’s done a fantastic job,” Faine said of Zuttah. “There have been little things here and there, but you have to expect that with as much change as he has to deal with – not only with him, but at left guard as well. That’s challenging. Then to go into an environment like they went to this past week where it’s loud, but I think he’s done a great job stepping in and holding up the line while I wasn’t there.”
Zuttah will replace rookie Ted Larsen, who has started the last two games at left guard and played well.
“Ted Larsen is at a very young point in his career and I think he’s doing a fantastic job at the stage he’s at in his career and I think he’ll get better, too,” Faine said.
Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood also has a chance to play against the Falcons. Trueblood suffered a sprained injury in the fourth quarter that caused him to miss the final touchdown drive against St. Louis and miss the Arizona game. Trueblood, who is expected to return to practice on Wednesday, has been replaced by third-year veteran tackle James Lee, who started his first NFL game at right tackle at Arizona.
Faine, who is the leader of the offensive line and a team captain, has been impressed with the play of the less-experienced fill-in players like Larsen and Lee.
“On one hand you would like to pat them on the back, but on the other hand that’s what we expect for those guys to be able to be plugged in,” Faine said. “I’ve seen James Lee’s progression through his career since he’s been here and he’s gotten better and better. He’s a guy that I think can challenge for a starting spot around the NFL at some point in his career and he’s a guy that’s not going to be a perennial backup.”
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