TAMPA — Despite having a full four months until their season opener, the Bucs suffered their first major injury of 2012 on Thursday.
Da'Quan Bowers, the projected starting left defensive end who had been hoping to build on a strong finish to his rookie season last year, tore his right Achilles tendon, the team announced.
Bowers was scheduled for surgery today, after which more information about the extent of the injury and recovery time might be known.
The Bucs said only Bowers was hurt while working with their strength and conditioning staff. Under NFL rules, the team is not permitted to engage in football activities until next week, when offseason team activities begin.
Bowers didn't return calls seeking comment.
He said on Twitter he would play this season: "2013?? Get real. I'm playing THIS year, 2012."
He called the injury "just a little hurdle on the track."
Recovery from torn Achilles tendons can take roughly six months, but many variables are involved, a sports medicine doctor says.
"For this type of injury and this type of player, six months would be the average, maybe even better than average," said David McAllister, chief of sports medicine at UCLA.
"It's conceivable (Bowers) could return to play this season. But the question becomes how confident is he in his leg and how strong is his leg? Those are usually the things that take the longest. The muscles in that area become very weak, and that's the biggest problem."
Bowers sustaining the injury during conditioning drills is no surprise, McAllister said. "This happens all the time. It's usually a noncontact injury."
Bowers can perhaps draw inspiration from a teammate.
Long snapper Andrew Economos tore an Achilles tendon during training in April 2011. After spending the first six-plus weeks of last season on the physically unable to perform list, Economos returned in November and played the final nine games.
However long it takes, the Bucs will have to compensate for the loss.
Bowers was coming into his own late last season, starting the final six games. His most memorable game was Dec. 4 against Carolina. He had eight tackles (seven solo), 11/2 sacks and a pass deflection.
Without Bowers, Michael Bennett likely will play a wider role.
Bennett, entering his fourth season, started the first 10 games of 2011 before giving way to Bowers because of an ankle injury. Bennett, who also can play tackle on passing downs, had four sacks and was among the team's most consistent defensive linemen.
Bowers' injury changed the Bucs' plan on a roster move.
They opted to keep defensive lineman Myles Wade a few hours after announcing he would be released to make room for newly signed receiver Tiquan Underwood.
Former LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was signed after a tryout last weekend, was waived instead.
The Bucs are at the 90-man offseason roster maximum.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @HolderStephen.
Yet another injury
The Bucs drafted two defensive linemen in 2010 — tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price at Nos. 3 and 35 overall, respectively — and two in 2011 — ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers at Nos. 20 and 51, respectively. Only Clayborn hasn't been hurt.
The pick: Price
Injuries: Pelvic fracture and hamstring (2010), ankle (2011)
The pick: McCoy
Injuries: Torn left biceps (2010), torn right biceps (2011).
The pick: Bowers (right)
Injury: Torn right Achilles (2012)