Tampa Bay Buccaneers Without Both Starting Safeties at Thursday Practice

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to keep their postseason hopes alive, but their secondary could be down a couple key pieces when they host the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football. Starting safeties Mike Edwards and Antoine Winfield Jr. were both unavailable at the team's Thursday practice. Winfield suffered an ankle injury in the Bucs' Week 12 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns. Edwards suffered a contusion in the same game. Both are considered day-to-day. Defensive tackle Vita Vea also missed practice with the foot injury that cost him practices last week. He eventually played his typical allotment of snaps against the Browns.

In good news for the Bucs, safety Logan Ryan returned to practice this week from injured reserve and wide receiver Russell Gage is participating again after missing the previous four games with a hamstring injury. Both players were effective when available for the Buccaneers. Ryan allowed a 60.8 passer rating on throws in his direction in his four appearances this year and Gage has nabbed 29 receptions for 231 yards in seven appearances since joining the team on a three-year, $30 million earlier this year.

At 5-6, the Bucs remain atop the NFC South standings, but the Saints and Atlanta Falcons are nipping at their heels. If they intend to turn around their disappointing season, they'll need to hold back their division foes over the final stretch of the season. A win over the Saints on Monday could go a long way, but Edwards and Winfield missing the contest could easily erase whatever gap exists between the teams.

Photo credit: © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports