TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said he expects starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to be in the lineup for Sunday's critical NFC matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Alexander, a rookie, is still awaiting word from the NFL after he appealed his suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
"Yes, we expect him to be here this week," Smith said Wednesday. "He practiced. It is short-term from here on out. We're excited about Kwon playing again. Last time Kwon played Atlanta, he had the game of a lifetime. We're expecting him to have the same type this week."
Alexander made a game-high 11 tackles, had an interception, forced and recovered a fumble and had a pass breakup in the team's 23-20 win over the Falcons on Nov. 1, less than 24 hours after the shooting death of his younger brother. That game earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for Alexander.
Alexander being able to play would be good news for the Bucs, who could be without backup linebacker Bruce Carter on Sunday. Carter is in the NFL's concussion protocol program after getting hurt against Indianapolis and did not practice Wednesday.
Also not practicing for Tampa Bay were right tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee), wide receiver Vincent Jackson (knee), defensive ends George Johnson (calf) and Jacquies Smith (hamstring), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and tight end Luke Stocker (back).