TAMPA — As excited as the Bucs were to get DE Da'Quan Bowers back for Thursday's game, they were cautious in how extensively they used the second-year player making his season debut after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
Bowers played about 20 snaps, mostly one-and-off, on third downs, boosting the pass rush in the victory at Minnesota.
Bowers' body has responded well, and he had an expanded workload in Monday's practice, taking reps on first and second down, including three-play sequences.
"I'm definitely working my way back in," Bowers said. "Now it's more of a wind thing, getting back in shape, getting my wind back. I don't mind doing first and second down, I'm not only a pass-rush guy. Me and Coach (Greg Schiano) have been talking about it, and taking step towards that progress. Hopefully by Sunday I can get on first- and second-down situations."
Schiano said Thursday's game was a "really good start" for Bowers, pointing out they intended to bring him back slowly since he began practicing two weeks ago.
"Now we're taking the next step," Schiano said, "which is playing back-to-back plays and see how he does. If everything is good on Wednesday, maybe he goes four plays (in a row), try to get him back into this thing slowly. But he does have a pop to him that is good to have back."
BOUNCING BACK: The Bucs had easily their worst pass-rushing performance Oct. 21 in a loss to the Saints.
So, responding with what might have been their most intense pass rush Thursday is good news for them.
The Bucs notched three sacks and four hits on Vikings QB Christian Ponder. Against the Saints, the Bucs had no sacks and no hits on Drew Brees.
The only thing missing now is consistency.
"We probably had our worst effort in our pass rush (vs. Saints) and then one of the better ones this week," Schiano said. "All along I've been talking about consistency. That's what good teams do: They come out and consistently perform. Sometimes they peak a little bit. But they don't have the valleys. That's what we're working toward."
The Bucs used a mix of their base, four-man rush with some blitzes and stunts. The result was a productive effort one game after the Bucs used almost exclusively three- and four-man rushes against the Saints.
NEED MORE: The Bucs brought in veteran Roscoe Parrish to jump-start a struggling punt return unit. The position had been a revolving door all season, with Sammie Stroughter's injury and WR Jordan Shipley getting cut after a key fumble in Week 3.
But Parrish, 30, hasn't provided much of a boost, averaging 6.1 yards on 12 returns over four games, with the longest 13 yards. He also muffed a punt against the Vikings, though he recovered it in the pile-up.
Parrish said he won't start pressing to make plays that aren't there.
"You can't get frustrated," he said. "You have to make smart decisions (and) be patient, because one return can change everything. It's a long season, and I understand that being a veteran returner.
"I know the big one is going to come. You don't want to press right now. That's something I've done as a young returner. But I was able to have success with that."
Schiano said on his weekly radio program he plans to stick with Parrish for now and has high expectations of him down the stretch.
INJURY UPDATE: DE Michael Bennett (ankle) didn't practice Monday but is expected to play Sunday against the Raiders.