Like most of the decisions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made this year — from their deployment of cornerback Darrelle Revis to their benching of former quarterback Josh Freeman — this one sparked a controversy.

The critics questioned the logic of it, most asking why, after learning left guard Carl Nicks had a reccurrence of the MRSA infection that kept him out of the first four games, the Bucs wouldn't just place Nicks on season-ending injured reserve.

The Bucs responded by pointing to the schedule.

With 11 games left to play at that point, they argued they still had a chance at finishing the season with a winning record. The fact the Bucs have lost the three games since then hasn't changed their mind much.

Though a playoff run is clearly out of the question, the 2013 season is still only half over. Eight games remain and the Bucs believe that gives them a chance to regain some relevance, win back some respect, maybe even save some jobs.

“Is there an opportunity to still do something special this year? Yes, there is,'' Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “We need to right the wrong, correct the impression that's out there of who we are.

“There's no doubt we have an opportunity to do that. And it's a great opportunity. We just have to get the plane going up, show some upward trajectory. And I believe we can still do that.''

Players such as Nicks are among the reasons the Bucs still believe. At a time when most teams are losing key players to injury, the Bucs are starting to get some of their key players back.

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, who missed the past two games with a knee injury, should be back in the lineup for the “Monday Night Football” game against the Miami Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium (8:40 p.m.; ESPN; WMOR, Ch. 32). And while Nicks won't be in the lineup, he is showing steady improvement from the surgery to remove the infection, the Bucs say, and might not be far away from a return.