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Bucs veteran Lavonte David says 2021 foot injury could have been far worse

The inside linebacker said he was at “about 60 percent” health during the playoffs.
Bucs inside linebacker Lavonte David (54), celebrating a fumble recovery in the playoff game against the Rams, said a foot injury left him at about 60 percent in the postseason.
Bucs inside linebacker Lavonte David (54), celebrating a fumble recovery in the playoff game against the Rams, said a foot injury left him at about 60 percent in the postseason. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Apr. 12|Updated Apr. 12

TAMPA — At this point, the odds of Lavonte David participating extensively in any Bucs organized team activities or the June mandatory minicamp appear long.

But the team’s defensive elder statesman said Tuesday the prognosis could’ve been far worse.

Turns out, David, who spent the final three regular-season games of 2021 on injured reserve, played both playoff contests with what he called a “significant” Lisfranc injury equating to a “middle-foot sprain.”

“If it would’ve torn completely, I probably would’ve had surgery on it and not played for like, six to eight months,” David told reporters on the second day of the team’s Phase 1 offseason program.

“Luckily for me it didn’t get that far, but it was real significant. Throughout the playoffs I was having a tough time, too, but I had to gut it out. It’s the playoffs, I had to play. But for the most part, I probably was about 60 percent out there playing.”

Despite the injury, David totaled nine solo tackles and recovered a fumble in 127 playoff snaps. He said he’s rehabbing the foot at the AdventHealth Training Center and indicated Tuesday he feels “great.”

“The foot injury I was dealing with, that’s going to take some time to get to where I need to get, but that’s what I’ve got the offseason for, to be able to work on that,” he said. “I’ve got a great group of people I’m working with.”

An even more encouraging injury report arrived from All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who reaffirmed he won’t need surgery on the right ankle he injured in the Jan. 16 playoff victory against the Eagles. As proof, Wirfs arrived at Tuesday’s news conference barefoot — and with bare ankles.

“It’s going really good,” he said. “I didn’t get surgery. I’m feeling good, I’m lifting and everything, so yeah.”

Neal thrilled to join ‘mastermind’

After one season as a linebacker in Dallas, former Florida Gator Keanu Neal said Tuesday he’s eager to return to his natural safety spot with the Bucs, headquartered roughly an hour south of his rural hometown.

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Believed to be the franchise’s first player to hail from the Sumter County hamlet of Webster, Neal played at slightly more than 220 pounds last season, when he totaled 72 tackles in 14 regular-season games for the Cowboys. He expects to play around 215 pounds with the Bucs, filling the box-safety role vacated when Jordan Whitehead departed for the Jets.

“This is my natural position, this is where I thrive,” said Neal, the 17th overall pick (by the Falcons) in the 2016 draft who signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay last week. “Linebacker, it was different, but going back to safety is definitely what I’m excited about.”

Equally exciting, he indicated, is the chance to play for veteran defensive strategist Todd Bowles. On Tuesday, Neal twice referred to the new Bucs head coach as a “mastermind.”

“He’s really good at what he does,” said Neal, a 2017 Pro Bowler with Atlanta. “So I’m real excited to be a part of this group with what they stand for and what we’ve got to offer.”

Reserve defensive lineman re-signs

Bucs special-teams fixture Pat O’Connor, 28, has re-signed with the team on a one-year deal.

A seventh-round pick of the Lions in 2017, O’Connor, 28, played 93 percent of the Bucs’ special-teams snaps last season but logged only 45 defensive snaps. He has 14 tackles and 1-1/2 sacks in 40 career regular-season games with Tampa Bay.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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