According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Bucs are expecting to get back two key starters for the playoffs. Running back Leonard Fournette seems likely to return from a hamstring injury. Fournette was injured against the Saints in Week 15 and was placed on injured reserve. Meanwhile, linebacker Lavonte David could also return to the team soon.

Per Russini, the Bucs are hopeful David can play in the Wild Card round. The Bucs star linebacker suffered a foot sprain near the end of the team’s loss to the Saints. David was dominant against New Orleans, posting 11 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. There has been some question about when his return would occur. It sounds like Fournette remains the surer bet to play in the playoffs’ opening round, but that David has a strong chance too.

Based on head coach Bruce Arians’ comments yesterday, Giovani Bernard could return soon too. Bernard has been out since the Bucs’ Week 14 victory over the Bills.

“I have my fingers crossed that Gio [Bernard] might be able to get back (for Week 18),” Arians said on Monday.

If the Bucs can get Bernard and Fournette back for the playoffs, that would be huge. With Ronald Jones suffering an ankle injury on Sunday, Tampa Bay is thin at running back. Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell could share the load against the Panthers this week.

On defense, outside linebacker Shaq Barrett is likely to return for the playoffs. Most assume Jason Pierre-Paul will be back then too, as the team seems to just be resting him with that torn rotator cuff right now. If the Bucs can avoid more injuries in Week 18 and get David, Barrett and Pierre-Paul back for the playoffs, their defense could finally be at full strength. Tampa Bay hasn’t played a single defensive snap with all their starters during the 2021 season.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Horse
Horse
6 months ago

God news for sure.

buccaneerNW
buccaneerNW
6 months ago

JPP is done.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan
Reply to  buccaneerNW
5 months ago

Not likely. He’ll play in the playoffs, and then get shoulder surgery and will be back at full strength again for next season. JPP has already proved that he’s willing to play hurt. 33 isn’t all that old for a pass rusher – many of the good ones have played well into their mid to late 30s.

Last edited 5 months ago by Naplesfan
twspin
twspin
Reply to  buccaneerNW
5 months ago

Probably is. But you gotta give him credit, the mans pain threshold is off the charts. If he can play, he will be there. Guys a warrior of the best kind. He plays better hurt than most do healthy.

False Start
False Start
6 months ago

Encouraging!! Any news on RoJo?

Lawdy
Lawdy
6 months ago

anything on SMB?

surferdudes
surferdudes
5 months ago

David isn’t playing this Sunday for sure, Minter has looked old, and slow. This would be a good game to give one of our young LB’s a shot. How about Brit get a start?

Dman
Dman
Reply to  surferdudes
5 months ago

Agree. Surprised how poorly Minter played, same with D White. I’m a fan of Brit, would like to se him get some PT.

cobraboy
cobraboy
5 months ago

Weren’t they all healthy for game 1 before SMB went down?

BucLife
BucLife
Reply to  cobraboy
5 months ago

Whitehead missed game 1 with an injury.

twspin
twspin
5 months ago

Man..Fournette and Davids return would be Huge!!! As would Shaq and JPP. Without them I think this team sinks for sure. I know the Bucs medical staff are pulling all the tricks they got out of the bag. Just hope its enough.