A pair of Buccaneers players who were sidelined for most of the preseason could return in time for the Sept. 9 season-opener against Carolina, according to Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times.
Receiver Arrelious Benn has been increasingly active of late "and should be practicing within days," Holder writes. Amobi Okoye's slow recovery from offseason knee surgery is nearing an end as well, as he has been "more involved" in recent practices, according to Holder.
"It’s tough sitting there watching," said Benn. "I went through an injury my rookie year, but I only missed one game. To sit there and watch a whole training camp go by is tough. But I’m not worried about anything. I’m just glad to be back."
Benn finished 2011 with 30 receptions for 441 yards and three touchdowns. Okoye was considered one of the team's key offseason free agent signings and is expected to figure prominently into Tampa Bay's pass rush in certain packages.
- Final preseason game shows depth is a concern: Little went right for the Buccaneers in Wednesday's 30-3 loss at Washington to end the preseason. The offensive line was again porous, leading coach Greg Schiano to give this evaluation of the offense as a whole: "We did not run the football with any effectiveness, we have to protect (the quarterback) better and (the quarterback has to) get rid of the ball more quickly." As bad as that sounds, the defensive reserves didn't fare much better. At least two players stood out, according to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, as Sean Baker finished with three takeaways and Tiquan Underwood finished with 82 yards on six receptions.
- Players on bubble state their cases: Wednesday night was the last chance for a trio of players in Tampa Bay's crowded secondary to show coaches why they belong on the final 53-man roster. The aforementioned Baker finished with two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Keith Tandy led the team in tackles for the second-straight week. Leonard Johnson was consistent, as he has been throughout the preseason, writes Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times. Baker, a longshot to make the roster at the crowded safety spot, summed up the thoughts of those on the bubble: "I came out here since Day 1 and I've been busting my tail, doing whatever I can to help this team get better," he said. "I did all I could do and the rest just has to fall into place."
- Tough choices ahead for Schiano as Bucs cut down to 53: As an NFL assistant, Schiano watched as players were cut at his position. This, though, is different, as for the first time as an NFL head coach, he has to pare a roster down to 53 players himself. "There's nothing fun about it," Schiano told Stephen F. Holder of the Tampa Bay Times. "There's nothing happy about it. But it's part of the business. It's part of pro football. I think everybody understands that when they get into it." Holder also notes the first attempt to replace injured guard Davin Joseph did not go well against the Redskins, as Jamon Meredith and Bradley Sowell struggled at right guard and left tackle, respectively.
- Third-string QB Ratliff happy despite struggles: QB Brett Ratliff played the entirety of Wednesday night's preseason finale against the Redskins. Though he did not get the Bucs into the end zone in the team's 30-3 loss and struggled to a 14-of-30 effort for 164 yards with three interceptions, it was a dream come true in some ways for the journeyman, writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. "I just love the game. I love playing," said Ratliff, on his sixth team since entering the NFL in 2007. "I'd do this forever." Unless the Bucs decide to keep a third quarterback, Ratliff will almost certainly be cut by Friday's move to a 53-man roster.
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