Bucs’ Carl Nicks returns to practice, says he is MRSA-free

Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Carl Nicks had limited participation in practice Wednesday and said he is clear of MRSA, a serious staph infection that has kept him off the field in recent weeks.

During training camp, the two-time Pro Bowl player developed a blister on his left foot that became infected. On Aug. 22, the Bucs revealed that Nicks, along with kicker Lawrence Tynes (right foot), had contracted MRSA sometime before Tampa Bay’s second preseason game against the New England Patriots on Aug. 16.

The Bucs are uncertain whether Nicks will play in their Week 2 matchup against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. But his appearance at practice is an obvious sign of progress.

“What they do is they take cultures and they take blood, and it came out good,” Nicks told reporters Wednesday.

Nicks said he developed the blister on the side of his affected foot due to a walking boot that rubbed his skin. He appeared in only seven games last season because he tore the plantar plate on the foot, but he said that injury is “not even an issue at all.”

Nicks, 28, was kept out of the Bucs’ season-opening loss to the New York Jets last Sunday and watched the game on television. He said he has jogged and sprinted recently, in addition to doing offensive line work to keep himself in shape.

“I’m happy it’s over with,” Nicks said. “I don’t have it any more, and I’m happy I can get back to football and not just worry about MRSA.”

The Bucs could use a healthy Nicks back. Gabe Carimi started in Nicks’ place Sunday, but the anticipated Nicks/Davin Joseph combination at the guard spots has failed to come into focus for much of Nicks’ time with Tampa Bay.

Nicks was signed to a five-year, $47.5 million deal in March 2012, but in addition to Nicks’ health troubles, Joseph missed all of last season after sustaining a torn patellar tendon in his right knee in August 2012.

Joseph started against the Jets on Sunday.

“He was limited today,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said of Nicks.

“Don’t want to give any of those specifics as far as what he did or didn’t do. But it’s good to see him back there, and, certainly, he’s a key part of our offense and it would be really great to see him healthy and ready to roll.”

It’s unknown whether Nicks will be “ready to roll” come Sunday. But his return to practice was certainly a positive sign for him after a serious health scare.

“It’s frustrating, but at the same time, you can’t mess around with MRSA,” Nicks said. “So I’m going to do exactly what they tell me to do — what the doctors tell me and the coaches tell me. I know they have my best interest at heart, so I’m going to follow all their directions.”

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.