TAMPA — Bucs DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is a pretty quiet guy, and he doesn't draw as much attention — from fans or opposing offensive linemen — as some of his teammates.
"I know he's got turned loose a couple times. And the defensive line likes to give him a hard time about it because they feel like they're getting everybody blocking them," defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "We kid and say, 'He's a mirage. He's the invisible man' sometimes."
But Te'o-Nesheim, 25, drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2010 and signed by the Bucs from the Eagles' practice squad Nov. 22, 2011, has been a pleasant surprise since stepping in after DE Adrian Clayborn's season-ending knee injury.
Te'o-Nesheim, who has started seven games, picked up a career-high five tackles in Sunday's win against the Chargers, including a late sack. "He's done, honestly, much better than anybody would have anticipated," Sheridan said. "He's played well; not just okay or good enough. He's actually been productive."
Sheridan said Te'o-Nesheim, a 6-foot-3, 263-pounder out of Washington, is "stronger than you might think," but his forte is his hustle and effort.
"He's done a fantastic job," Sheridan said. "You can't find a guy on our defense who has done a better job from maybe what was anticipated six months ago."
Meredith update: There is concern about if starting RG Jamon Meredith can play Sunday against the Panthers.
Meredith did not practice Thursday due to an ankle injury suffered during the final period of Wednesday's practice, when a player fell on his leg, coach Greg Schiano said. Meredith used crutches Wednesday but didn't Thursday, when he walked without a protective boot.
"It's really unfortunate," Schiano said. "They're really aggressively treating him, and we'll see."
Meredith has played well in starting the past five games, helping step in for the injured Davin Joseph. Roger Allen, who has appeared in only three games over his four seasons and was promoted from the practice squad last month, is listed as Meredith's backup. Schiano said there are "a lot of different guys we're rolling through there," and they'll make a decision closer to game time.
"I hope it's Jamon," Schiano said. "But if not, then the next guy who we think gives us the best chance to win will get lined up there."
WRIGHT missing: When CB Eric Wright was not at practice Thursday, speculation centered on a setback for an Achilles injury that forced him to miss most of Sunday's game and limited at practice Wednesday.
But Schiano said Wright was excused for undisclosed "personal reasons." That begged the question if the absence was related to a report late last month by Fox Sports' Jay Glazer that Wright faces a four-game suspension for using Adderall.
Schiano declined to comment, only reiterating Wright was excused for personal reasons.
"If he's healthy," Schiano said, "he'll play on Sunday."
MISCELLANY: DE Michael Bennett (shoulder) and LG Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder) returned to practice. … Even with WR/KR Arrelious Benn (shoulder) practicing — after being inactive Sunday — CB/KR LeQuan Lewis said Schiano is giving him another chance to return kicks against the Panthers.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]