MINNEAPOLIS — Da'Quan Bowers' plans for a strong second season seemed to be derailed when he sustained a torn Achilles tendon in May.
But Thursday at the Metrodome, the defensive end returned to the field less than six months after the injury. Before the game, Bowers was activated from the physically unable to perform list after practicing with the team since last week.
He wasted no time in contributing, creating pressure as a third-down pass rusher on the right side in the Bucs' 36-17 victory against the Vikings.
Once Bowers began practicing Oct. 15, the club had a 21-day window in which to determine whether he was ready to be activated. Coaches and trainers needed only 10 days.
"It's been a lot of work by our trainers and our staff to make sure Da'Quan got back to full strength, and Da'Quan put in a lot of work," GM Mark Dominik said on the pregame show on WDAE-AM 620. "It's something we were hopeful would happen with his ability to heal quickly."
The Bucs released CB LeQuan Lewis to make room on the active roster.
Coach Greg Schiano said Bowers would be worked in slowly, which he was. On the snaps he played, Bowers looked confident and strong.
He had a fortuitous moment. When Vikings QB Christian Ponder mishandled a shotgun snap in the third quarter and had to fall on the ball, Bowers was there to pile on. The team was credited with a tackle for a loss.
Bowers' presence can't hurt, even in a limited capacity. The team's pass rush had fallen off since the loss of starting right end Adrian Clayborn. Bowers, previously a left end, seemed comfortable playing at right end. That's where Clayborn was off to a solid start, part of a line that had been pressuring quarterbacks through three games. Since Clayborn's injury, the Bucs have had to be creative. Thursday they had three sacks.
"I definitely think my presence was noticeable," Bowers said. "I was fortunate enough to help the team tonight. Under the circumstances, just getting thrown in the first, it worked out really well. Coach Schiano asked me how I felt. I told him, and we came up with the decision to go. I felt good about the decision. He totally left it up to me, and I felt I was more prepared this week than last week."
BUMPED UP: Rookie CB Leonard Johnson (Largo High) made his first career start as the Bucs opened the game in a nickel defense with three cornerbacks. Veteran Myron Lewis has struggled and was inactive; veteran Brandon McDonald, the cornerback in the previous two games, remained on the bench.
Johnson recorded a key pass deflection on a third-down play in the first quarter, ending a Vikings drive and helping set up the Bucs with good field position.
In the second quarter, on another third down, Johnson took a catch away from WR Percy Harvin, making what would've been an interception had Johnson's feet been in bounds. That play forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal.
Johnson capped his night with a fourth-quarter interception at the Bucs 8.
RETURN ISSUES, AGAIN: WR Roscoe Parrish could be on thin ice after a shaky performance. First, he muffed a punt in the first quarter and recovered it. But Parrish continued to struggle to handle punts throughout the night. Parrish is on the roster because the last two punt returners — Preston Parker and Jordan Shipley — were released, in large part because of their fumbles.
Miscellany: The Vikings put S Mistral Raymond, a former USF player, on the inactive list for the fifth straight game because of a right ankle injury.