Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Bowers ready to step up

TAMPA — The wide smile worn by Da'Quan Bowers on Tuesday was that of man without a care in the world. Playing catch with middle school kids tickled by his mere presence, the Bucs defensive end looked at ease — finally.

Bowers has borne a lot on his broad shoulders the past two years. From seeing his stock plummet from likely top-10 pick in the 2011 NFL draft to a devastating Achilles tear in 2012 to his February gun-possession arrest in New York, there have been significant setbacks.

But Bowers' load is lighter these days. He's healthy, and his case has been resolved favorably. The only challenge now is fulfilling the high expectations he set long ago.

"It's not only injuries, but (my) play. I haven't been the dominant player that I know I can be," Bowers said Tuesday at Tampa's Pierce Middle School, joined by teammates Josh Freeman, Dekoda Watson and Lavonte David for an event promoting physical fitness.

"I have a lot of potential to be one of the best and the elite at what (I) do, and I haven't shown that at this level yet. (It was) injuries and not understanding what was going on. It takes time to mature at this level. I think my maturation process is going on now and a lot of it has already passed. So, I'm just looking for an opportunity now."

Bowers reflected on his recent past for the first time this offseason, having not spoken to reporters since his arrest and subsequent plea deal in what was a felony weapons possession case at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Bowers says he inadvertently brought a handgun in his checked luggage during his inbound flight, then tried to turn it into authorities when checking in for his return flight. That resulted in his arrest because he lacked a proper New York permit, thought he owned the gun legally in Florida. Bowers pleaded to disorderly conduct and was assessed a $250 fine.

With no known history of legal trouble, Bowers hated being associated with a crime.

"There is no right way to make a mistake," he said. "I just apologize to the fans and the organization that I put in that (position). I apologize to my family. … That's not what I'm about. That's not the type of person that I am. I appreciate (general manager) Mark (Dominik) and the Glazers and Coach (Greg) Schiano for being with me through this whole situation."

The arrest came after two years of injuries, including the 2011 knee surgery that dropped the projected top-10 draft choice into the second round. The Achilles tear last year was suffered in offseason workouts.

With all that behind him, Bowers now looks forward to a challenge of a different sort: The one issued by his team. By letting free agent defensive end Michael Bennett sign with the Seahawks, the Bucs essentially cast a vote of confidence for Bowers as starting left end.

Bowers, 23, called the task of becoming a full-time starter "a big responsibility. I have a job to do and it's to make this team the best team it can be," he said.

But the team shows no doubts, in part, Bowers said, because of the fight he showed in returning from the Achilles tear in less than six months to appear in 10 games last season.

"It was determination," said Bowers, who made lifestyle and diet changes in hopes of preventing injuries. "Tearing an Achilles and making a return to the field in October is a big move. It wasn't done overnight and it wasn't easy. I had great trainers and I had a great support team with Coach Schiano and Mark Dominik the rest of the staff.

"They put faith in me and they told me to just work my way back and they trusted in me. And now they're trusting in me again and it's my job to prove their decision is a good decision."

Around the NFL: Kicker John Kasay, 43, signed a one-day deal so he could retire with the Panthers. … The Broncos named former Browns GM Tom Heckert as director of pro personnel.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected] Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Comments

Bucsí Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Mondayís game vs. Falcons

TAMPA ó As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isnít challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Published: 12/16/17
McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

McCoy, David, Hargreaves all out Monday against Falcons

As if containing Julio Jones and the Falcons offense weren't challenging enough, the Bucs will try to so Monday night without perhaps their top two defensive players in DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David.Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on Saturday ruled bo...
Published: 12/16/17
Bucsí Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucsí Ward glad to be back, eager for rematch with brother Terron

Bucs safety T.J. Ward will make a healthy return Monday after missing two games with a concussion, and it's also a chance to face his brother Terron, a running back with the Falcons."Our whole family's going to be there, rooting us on," T.J. said aft...
Published: 12/16/17
Jones: Tony Dungy didnít leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

Jones: Tony Dungy didnít leave the Bucs on the clearance rack

It is and always will be the greatest debate in Tampa Bay sports history.Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy?You donít even need to say anything more than that. Bucs fans already know what youíre talking about.Gruden or Dungy?Who was most responsible for the on...
Published: 12/16/17
Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

Jon Gruden or Tony Dungy? Why the debate rages on

TAMPA — Bucs coach Jon Gruden did not win the Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team. Don’t believe me? Ask Dungy. "It wasn’t. They did a great job. They took it and tweaked it," Dungy said. "The same way I got a great (Colts) tea...
Published: 12/16/17
Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Staff writers pick sides (kind of) in the Dungy-Gruden debate

Even with ó perhaps especially with óJon Gruden set to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor Monday night, Tampa Bayís Great Sports Debate hasnít abated. Who deserves more credit for the biggest moment in Tampa Bay sports history ó the Bucsí Super ...
Published: 12/16/17
Nobody has Jameis Winstonís back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody has Jameis Winstonís back more than Dirk Koetter, offensive coordinator Todd Monken insists

Nobody is a bigger supporter of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston than head coach Dirk Koetter.That was the passionate message that offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken unloaded at his news conference Friday, saying that reports that Winst...
Published: 12/15/17
Updated: 12/16/17
Bucs journal: Adarius Glantonís experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

Bucs journal: Adarius Glantonís experience could come in handy for ailing LB corps

TAMPA ó The Bucsí linebacker depth was tested during the first five weeks of the season, when Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander missed a combined six games with injuries.And now, as David is again sidelined by a hamstring injury, the experience gained...
Published: 12/15/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Letís revisit Monday night games in Bucsí past

Cannon Fodder podcast: Letís revisit Monday night games in Bucsí past

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman has injury updates on Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy and a nostalgic trip through the Bucsí history on Monday night, including the current three-game win streak and yes, that infamous 2003 Colts game where the Bucs were u...
Published: 12/15/17
Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

Why the Bucs need a Dungy more than a Gruden

TAMPA ó The worst week of Dirk Koetterís life rolls on.Itís Gruden Week, just like Shark Week, only with smaller teeth and a bigger playbook. Itís the big build-up to Grudenís induction into the Buc Ring of Honor this Monday night, with the accompany...
Published: 12/15/17