TAMPA — Da'Quan Bowers didn't exactly toss and turn with anxiety before waking Wednesday morning.
He knew he was ready to practice less than six months after rupturing his right Achilles tendon, and there was no trepidation before taking the field at One Buc Place.
"I slept great," said the second-year defensive end, who was hurt while working out May 10.
Wednesday was the latest in a multistep process, and it was a small step at that. Coach Greg Schiano said Bowers had only a "minimal workload." But just getting here as quickly as he has indicates Bowers could be a factor before the season ends.
"I knew it would be somewhere around this time," Bowers said. "It's all about how you attack your rehab, and I attacked my rehab pretty forcefully. I didn't baby it. All I could think about was trying to get back to play this season."
Said Schiano: "Da'Quan has been unbelievable in his rehab. And not only rehabbing his Achilles, but what he's done with the rest of his body. I always talk to our guys about if they do have an unfortunate injury like that, there's an opportunity there as well. Your Achilles is hurt, but your upper body is fine. There's a lot of things you can do cardiovascularly, and he's done that. He looks great."
In addition to getting into football shape, Bowers must acclimate himself to the new defensive scheme. He has regularly attended meetings, been at the facility and been around his coaches. But not being on the field means he has ground to make up.
"There are some things … you just can't get until you have the shots fired at you," Bowers said. "A lot of those things are just adjustments that I would miss because I wasn't out there (at practice)."
Schiano won't commit to a time line with Bowers. But now that he has practiced, the Bucs have 21 days to move him from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster.
Schiano did make it clear Bowers won't play Sunday against the Saints. The Bucs have a short week after that, at Minnesota for a Thursday night game, so the earliest he will play likely will be Nov. 4 at Oakland.
Before playing in a game, Bowers said he's first looking for "consistency."
"I just want to be consistent with everything: the playbook, the plays, taking coaching, conditioning and, most of all, my Achilles," he said. "It's just all about how that thing feels."
THE BEST DEFENSE: At 402 yards per game, the Saints have the fourth-best offense in the league. So the Bucs offense is as important as the defense in stopping it.
"Every possession is critical," Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "But when you have a premier player (QB Drew Brees) and a great offense on the other side, you have to make every one of them count. It all starts with ball security. And then it's the ability to sustain our drives on third down and trying to stay in third and (shorts)."
ANOTHER SHOT: Jamon Meredith, who started at right guard for Ted Larsen on Sunday, will do so again against the Saints, Schiano said.
"It wasn't perfect, but he definitely maintains the starting job," Schiano said. "He played well enough. The one thing that Jamon is is very strong. We have to get some things cleaned up. But when he does hit you, he moves you."
FAMILIAR LOOK: Schiano will see his team don throwback, creamsicle uniforms for the first time Sunday.
"I do like them. I think it's a nice thing they do in the NFL," he said. "And a guy my age (46), I remember all those other uniforms. Well, some of them go way back. I don't remember those. But I certainly remember the old Bucs uniforms. It will be fun to wear them."
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BucsBeat.