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Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett likely to sit out Sunday

TAMPA — Michael Bennett could handle the doubters and double-teams. But Wednesday, the Bucs defensive end finally found his groin injury to be too burdensome to play through.

"It just got to the point where I just couldn't go," said Bennett, an undrafted free agent from Texas A&M claimed off waivers from Seattle in 2009.

"I had to go sit down. I could barely get down in my stance. I couldn't move my legs right. They've told me I probably need to sit out a couple of weeks. That's the only way you get healthy with this thing: rest."

Coach Raheem Morris held out hope Bennett could play.

"He'll be day to day. We'll have to see what's going on by the end of the week," Morris said.

Bennett, 26, has 31 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

His play has been good enough to keep rookie Da'Quan Bowers, a second-round draft pick, out of the starting lineup. But coaches have been raving about Bowers' play recently, and it's likely he will replace Bennett on Sunday at Tennessee.

Bowers said he might not have been ready for the responsibility earlier but now feels prepared. "Mental sharpness" was what he cited as his biggest area of improvement this season.

"It's not much physical, but being mentally prepared each week," he said. "That's half the battle, just knowing the ins and outs."

Morris said Bowers has improved as the season has progressed.

"The last game may have been one of his more productive games," he said. "The game before that, you kind of saw some flash from him. He's settled in at that left end spot. He's comfortable. He's playing aggressive. He's violent and starting to pick things up pretty quickly."

More injuries: S Tanard Jackson, who missed Sunday's game at Green Bay and has been plagued by a hamstring strain since Oct. 23 against the Bears, returned to practice and is expected to start against the Titans.

Jackson, who missed 56 weeks serving a league suspension for violating its substance-abuse policy, was injured returning an interception against the Bears. He played poorly in a loss to the Texans on Nov. 13 and was inactive Sunday against the Packers.

"Tanard went out there and did mostly everything," Morris said. "He participated in everything. I watched him go out and run around, and I'm feeling really good about that one."

LB Dekoda Watson has been battling a groin injury but participated in practice. And DT Brian Price was limited with a forearm injury.

HASSELBECK WILL PLAY: Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck confirmed he will play Sunday against the Bucs.

Hasselbeck left Sunday's 23-17 loss to the Falcons with a sprained right elbow. Rookie Jake Locker took over and nearly led a comeback win in throwing for 140 yards.

"He's awesome," Hasselbeck said of Locker, the eighth overall draft pick out of Washington. "He and I are good friends, and our whole quarterback room has been great this year.

"Jake has a ton of ability. He came in and played the fourth quarter this past week and played really, really well. It's no secret why he was a first-rounder.

"For him, I'm sure it's fun being in the NFL. But at the same time, I'm sure he's getting antsy and itching for his chance to play. And I'm sure he'll get his chance at some point and have a long, successful career."

ROSTER MOVE: DT Frank Okam, released from the active roster Tuesday, was added to the practice squad Wednesday. The Bucs released DT Swanson Miller from the practice squad to make room.

Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Michael Bennett likely to sit out Sunday 11/23/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:38pm]
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