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Receiver Arrelious Benn healing quickly for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Arrelious Benn, left, was coming on strong last season when he injured his left knee.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Arrelious Benn, left, was coming on strong last season when he injured his left knee.

TAMPA — Arrelious Benn exploded from the line of scrimmage, his knees pumping like pistons before he chopped his feet, pivoted on a dime and rotated 180 degrees until adjusting for the football that struck his outstretched hands.

It was the first day of training camp practice and the play would've been unremarkable for any other Bucs receiver. A simple pattern. Except there's nothing routine about the route Benn has taken to return to the football field.

"I probably have to look at the scar, because I can't even tell which leg was hurt," receivers coach Eric Yarber said. "He's such a hard worker and a fast healer. He's a medical marvel. I said he should be in some kind of medical journal."

Benn, the Bucs' second-round pick from Illinois last year, shrugged when asked if he has watched the play that ended his rookie season with one game left.

"I watch it all the time," Benn said. "I've seen it on tape. In fact, that was the last play we ran today, and I'm going to run it the same way."

Bucs trainer Todd Toriscelli watched it, too, and said what was so unusual is that Benn's left leg wasn't planted at the time of the injury.

Early in the second half against Seattle in Week 16, Benn caught a short pass in the right flat, turned and raced down the sideline until the helmet of defensive back Marcus Trufant drove through his left knee with such brutal force that it tore the anterior cruciate ligament in half.

He became the fourth rookie and the 10th Bucs player to land on injured reserve. But what really hurt was how it halted the momentum he could have carried into the offseason.

Of Benn's 25 receptions for 395 yards, he had 16 for 252 yards in his final seven games.

"He was spring-boarding," Yarber said. "He was coming into his own, and that's what was so unfortunate about the lockout, he was looking forward to the offseason and being able to take his game to the next level."

Instead, Benn woke up in the surgical recovery room of Dr. John Zvijac, the team's orthopedic surgeon, with one recurring thought.

"My first reaction was when can I walk?'' Benn said. "I was ready to walk out of there. I didn't want to waste any time. Even though I couldn't walk, I thought I could sit down and catch like 1,000 balls a day."

General manager Mark Dominik credits a few things to Benn's quick recovery: Zvijac did a good job, the team was able to monitor the first month of his rehab before the lockout and Benn's healing powers.

"It gets down to the kid and his work ethic and his protoplasm," Dominik said. "The only reason you might not see him at practice is because I'm holding him back. We want to be smart with him."

Benn, 22, is being limited to one practice a day and no contact. There's a chance the Bucs will not play him in the preseason, but he has no doubts about being ready for the Sept. 11 opener against Detroit.

"Oh yeah, I'll definitely be 100 percent by the opener," he said.

Nobody is rooting harder for Benn than Mike Williams, the Bucs go-to receiver who led all rookies with 11 touchdowns last season. Williams was drawing double-teams when Benn excelled in wins at Arizona and Washington.

He will have to battle Dezmon Briscoe and Sammie Stroughter for the No. 2 receiver spot.

However, at 6 feet 2, 220 pounds and with what teammates say is about 4 percent body fat, the Bucs have never had a receiver that big who was that fast.

"Keyshawn (Johnson) was physical, but not as fast," Dominik said. "It's why we traded up to get him and people said, "Why would you trade up for (Benn)?' Well, we saw traits in terms of strength and speed to run after the catch."

Thankfully for the Bucs, he's also a fast healer.

Receiver Arrelious Benn healing quickly for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 11:30pm]
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