Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

For injured Bucs players, postponement gives an extra week to heal

As much as the postponement of Sunday's Bucs season opener to November sets up a grueling stretch of games on 16 weekends, for a handful of Bucs players recovering from injury, it also provides a much-needed extra week to get back to full strength.

"This is working out perfectly," said linebacker Kwon Alexander, who was held out of practice for two weeks with a hamstring injury. "I need a little more time myself, but I'm feeling well and was ready and practicing today, but without the game now, it's even better. I can get all the way back to where I need to get."

The Bucs had all 53 players on the active roster practicing Wednesday -- a rare feat any time of the season -- and are required to take four days off as part of what is now their bye week. The team will be back together Monday, that much healthier preparing for a new opener at home against the Bears.

"It helps me tremendously," said Demar Dotson, who sat out two weeks with a groin injury before returning to practice this week. "I wasn't feeling 100 percent. With the extra week, it gives me an opportunity to get back to 100 percent. It's bittersweet because you never want to play 16 straight games. You look forward to that bye week, no matter when it is, as a chance to rest up, get your mind back and prepare for the later stretch of the season."\

Defensive end Jacquies Smith practiced Monday for the first time in nearly a year -- he tore his ACL on the first snap he played in last year's season opener. While he's been patient in his recovery to get back in time for the start of the season, another week of practice to get back into rhythm is even better.

"It's been a long, long process even to get back on the field," Smith said. "It's a great feeling. Just being able to get more reps at practice, watch more film, be out there with the guys, get more treatment, it's going to be a tremendous help for me."

Safety T.J. Ward isn't injured, but just joined the Bucs over the weekend when he signed a one-year contract -- the three-time Pro Bowler now has an extra week to learn a new playbook and put himself in position to know the defense he's stepping into this season.

"It's great -- coming in the manner in which I did, it was rush hour, but now I get an extra week," Ward said. "It might hurt on the back end with a 16-game stretch, but it gives me another week to get ready for Week 1 and that's a blessing. I'm definitely going to stay in my playbook as much as possible, watch film as much as possible and try to catch up."

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