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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Knee improving, Fatinikun returns with new name in 2016



Bucs defensive end T.J. Fatinikun has been on injured reserve since an ACL injury to his right knee in Week 4, but the 24-year-old is doing well in his rehabilitation and eager to return healthy for the 2016 season.

"It tests your mental strength," he said from the Bucs' locker room Wednesday. "My biggest thing is covering the bases, not overlooking stuff. It helps you see things in a whole different perspective, which I think will make me a better player. It's a tough process. It's ridiculously hard, but I've had great support from these guys, my family and my friends, and it helps keep you going and getting better."

Fatinikun, born in Lagos, Nigeria, has made the decision to now go by his given name, Olatunji (oh-lah-TOON-gee), from which his nickname derived -- his full name is Ayokunle Olatunji Fatinikun.

"I'm growing into a man," he said. "This injury was definitely a life-changing experience for me. I was stunned by it. I just wanted to change things and make sure I'm becoming a better man and fully be the man I can be, starting with my name."

Fatinikun, who had nine tackles as a rookie in 2014 and three in two games this season before the injury, still has months of rehab ahead of him but is hopeful he can be back at practice, perhaps by OTAs or mandatory minicamp in early summer. The Bucs have a handful of promising young linemen, including second-year pro Jacquies Smith and first-year player Howard Jones, both 25.

"I feel better now, and I'm not even all the way healed yet," Fatinikun said. "I'm excited about the opportunity when I am fully healthy."

[Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2015 1:22am]


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