TAMPA — The left big toe problem that has slowed Bucs LG Carl Nicks in training camp is something he will have to deal with not just the for rest of this football season, but for the rest of his life.
The two-time Pro Bowler is hopeful, though, the problem won’t be an issue on game days.
Nicks hopes that a with a slightly limited practice schedule and a smart maintenance program, he’ll be able to maintain his standard as one of the league’s best blockers.
“If I just take it a little easier during the week (of practice), I think I’ll be fine,’’ Nicks said after Monday’s workout at One Buc Place. “I’ll still practice, just not every play. I’ve got that vet card, so I’ll use it.’’
The Bucs have held Nicks out of most live team drills during practice, but he is ready to give his sore toe its first big test in Friday’s preseason game at New England. Coach Greg Schiano said Nicks will make the trip and could see his first game action since the 2012 midseason.
“It’s not 100 percent yet, but I plan on playing in this next preseason game and obviously the third one,” Nicks said. “So, we’ll see how it goes.’’
Nicks tore the plantar plate in his left toe during a game in October and hasn’t played since. The lingering effects of the injury have affected virtually every aspect of his life.
“I’d lie if I told you it didn’t affect me at all,’’ Nicks said. “It affects the way I walk, the way I stand around. Like right now, I have to stand a certain kind of way. It’s just something I have to deal with. It’s a tolerance thing. I don’t want to get into taking pain killers and not know if it’s hurting it or not, so I just have to suck it up.
“I’ll have to deal with this my whole life, so it is what it is. But I also have all the confidence in the world that I’ll be playing on Sundays.’’
As the Bucs were finishing off Monday’s practice in searing heat, it was a comfortable 71 degrees at noon in Foxborough, Mass., where Tampa Bay players and coaches will spend the rest of the week.
The Bucs departed Monday afternoon for three days of practice against the Patriots in preparation for Friday night’s preseason matchup. Last summer, New England scrimmaged the Bucs in Tampa before the teams met in an exhibition game at Raymond James Stadium.
“This is an opportunity to go against really good competition and not tackle to the ground,’’ Schiano said. “It’ll be an even better situation this year, to go up there and get out of the heat for a couple of days, which our guys could use right now.’’
Besides the cooler conditions, the extended New England trip offers a welcome change of pace.
“I like it because it gives you a different look,’’ Bucs LB Jonathan Casillas said. “Instead of going up against the same offense, the same personnel every day in the same color, you get to switch it up.’’
Half empty, half full
Schiano experienced mixed emotions Monday when QB Josh Freeman was absolutely locked in, firing one completion after another in laser-like fashion with precision accuracy. As encouraging as it was, there still was a downside for Schiano.
“Yeah, from the head coach’s standpoint, the passing looked sharp,’’ Schiano said. “So, that means our pass defense didn’t look so sharp. It’s a heck of a day, isn’t it? You never win.’’
WR Eric Page, signed as a free agent in April, has the inside track as Tampa Bay’s primary punt returner, Schiano said. Page averaged 10.9 yards per punt return in his junior year at Toledo. ...The Bucs staged their fifth annual “Lace it up for Kids’’ event Monday, providing new shoes for hundreds of local students who were also treated to autographs from Tampa Bay players.