<
>

Bucs' Carl Nassib back after 3-game absence; Falcons without Austin Hooper, Devonta Freeman

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have starting outside linebacker Carl Nassib active for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons after he missed the past three with a groin injury.

"He got better a little bit each day," coach Bruce Arians said Friday. "He did a little more today. We should be able to use him Sunday."

Nassib returned to practice last week, but Arians said he experienced a setback, which is why he didn't play against the New Orleans Saints, forcing Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett to play 96% and 93% of defensive snaps, respectively. The Bucs have also been without backup outside linebacker Anthony Nelson due to a hamstring injury.

"That's not what we want to do," Arians said on both playing so many snaps. "We want fresh bodies out there. Carl's probably one of our best run-stoppers at outside linebacker."

In addition to Nelson being out, the Bucs will also continue to be without nickelback M.J. Stewart, who has missed the past week due to a knee injury.

The Falcons, meanwhile, officially ruled out starting tight end Austin Hooper (MCL) and starting running back Devonta Freeman (foot), who both didn't practice all week off their respective injuries.

Brian Hill is expected to replace Freeman in the backfield, while Luke Stocker and Jaeden Graham will get more opportunities at tight end with Hooper out.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn also ruled out backup safety Kemal Ishmael (concussion), while defensive end Takk McKinley is questionable with a left shoulder injury. Starting cornerback Kendall Sheffield missed Friday's practice with an illness but is expected to play Sunday, Quinn said.

ESPN's Vaughn McClure contributed to this report.