Bucs' Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy on pace to face Saints

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers received good news Friday, as their two best defensive players appear likely to play in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints.

Starting weakside linebacker Lavonte David returned to practice Friday after missing Thursday with an ankle injury. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who missed last Sunday's game with hand injury, also practiced and is listed as questionable for Sunday.

Wearing what appeared to be a heavily bandaged club, McCoy took reps with the first team defense Friday. McCoy leads the team with seven sacks and is tied for the team lead with seven tackles for losses.

Although McCoy hasn't been cleared medically, coach Lovie Smith expects him to play.

"We have a few more hours before game time," Smith said. "He's right on pace to be ready for Sunday."

The Bucs couldn't afford any more absenses on defense. Starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander is suspended for the rest of the regular season and defensive end Jacquies Smith will miss his second straight game because of a hamstring injury. Defensive end George Johnson, who has missed the past three games with a calf injury, could miss another.

That shouldn't be the case with David.

David leads the team with 105 tackles, three interceptions and 10 pass breakups. He also six tackles for losses, two sacks and one forced fumble this year.

"I feel good, ready to go Sunday," David said. "[Missing Thursday's practice] was just a precautionary issue, nothing real serious. I was back out there full go and I'm ready to go Sunday."