Illness and injury leave Bucs shorthanded defensively

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without three top names on defense Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Starting defensive tackle Chris Baker and defensive end Jacquies Smith did not make the trip to Minneapolis because of the flu, according to Bucs team officials.

Both players missed practice all week due to the bug, which has been going around the Bucs' locker room. They were listed as "doubtful" on the final injury report Friday but were downgraded to "out" on Saturday.

"It's just one of those things, when you have a lot of guys in tight quarters and something contagious hits," head coach Dirk Koetter said Friday. "This isn't the first time or the last time something like this [happens]. We have to take certain precautions, and it is what it is. We've just got to deal with it."

Starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander has already been ruled out due to the hamstring injury he suffered last week against the Chicago Bears. Rookie Kendell Beckwith, who started at the strongside linebacker position last week before moving over to the middle, is expected to assume that role again.

Clinton McDonald will step into Baker's role rather than splitting snaps like they did last week. McDonald started 31 games alongside Gerald McCoy the past three years and played 24 snaps last week.

Smith had been hopeful to return this week after missing all of the preseason and 15 games last season while recovering from a torn ACL. He was given a clean bill of health for his knee and was working on his conditioning before the bug hit. In 18 starts from 2014-2015, Smith recorded 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.