TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will officially be without both wide receiver Adam Humphries and offensive tackle Demar Dotson on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints due to concussions, along with Cecil Shorts III, who is done for the season with a knee injury.
That means a number of players who are not only backups, but either weren't with the team at the beginning of the season or have have seen little to no action, will be relied up heavily Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Humphries returned to practice Thursday but still has not cleared the concussion protocol, while Dotson has yet to return to practice. League rules strictly outline a player's return to action in the concussion protocol. Humphries was a full participant in Friday's non-contact practice, which means that as of Friday, he was in Step 4 of a five-step process, in which a player can "participate in non-contact activities for the full duration of practice."
Contact is not permitted until players reach Step 5 of the protocol, which is full participation and clearance. It should also be noted that at any given point in the process, a player can take a step back if there is a recurrence of symptoms. Dotson has yet to practice with the team, which means he has not passed Step 3.
"He’s got a nice burst, some short-area quickness, explosiveness, however you want to look at it," head coach Dirk Koetter said of Huff. "The one thing is, he’s done it in this league, he’s done it. It was with another team, but he’s made explosive returns and explosive plays in this league.”
Huff was one of several players practicing punt returns this week, which is Humphries' role and something cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III did last week.
On Saturday, Donteea Dye Jr. was also called up from the practice squad to take Humphries' roster spot, and Koetter said earlier in the week that he felt good about the way both players had been practicing. Huff has been lining in Humphries' slot role, although the team will also rotate Mike Evans in there too.
Last week, out of necessity, Russell Shepard lined up on the inside as well. On the outside, Martino and Shepard are expected to handle the workload opposite Evans, Jameis Winston's top target. Dye and Huff are both capable of lining up on the outside too, and Dye started five games on the outside last year. Martino went 4-for-4 for 56 receiving yards on the outside last week.
At right tackle, veteran Gosder Cherilus is expected to start in Dotson's spot. Koetter said he has "extreme confidence" in Cherilus.
"One of the best vets on our team, played a lot of ball for us. True pro, always prepared, whatever his role is," Koetter said. "Gos will step in there and he’ll do a great job.”
Up until this point, Cherilus has been the team's swing tackle who can back up both sides and is brought in for extra protection. With him stepping into Dotson's role, the team's next option for their swing tackle would be rookie Leonard Wester, who has not seen action in a game yet this season. Rookie Caleb Benenoch is also capable of lining up on the outside, but he's only seen action thus far as an interior offensive lineman.