Mike Jenkins debut with the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers will come in a game that counts.
A hamstring injury forced Jenkins, the former Bradenton prep star and USF standout, to sit out all four of the Buccaneers' preseason games, but he has managed to return just in time for the regular season opener against Caroline on Sunday. Jenkins practiced without limitations all week and is listed as "probable" for the game on the official injury report. While he may not play a full complement of snaps, he's certainly ready to contribute.
It may take a week or two for Jenkins to be ready to log 60 snaps a game, but he did enough during his down time to step right back into the mix in Week One.
"I was running every day," he said. "They had me running with the trainers, not football running. I feel like football shape is a whole other shape. I was doing conditioning every day. I think those guys did a good job of getting me right."
Jenkins signed with Tampa Bay in March after five years in Dallas and one in Oakland. He played his college games with the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium and he's glad his return to that field as a member of the home team won't have to be delayed.
"It's going to mean a lot to me," said Jenkins. "It's going to feel real good. I've been back twice on an opposite team. It just felt good coming back. The fans that were in the crowd, even though I was on the other team, they still rooted for me. So I think it's going to be great. I actually got a chance to see the guys play last Saturday and it felt good just being on the sideline in the stadium and the atmosphere. So I think it's going to be real electric for me to just get back out there."
There were eight players listed on the Buccaneers' injury report for Week One, and only three of them have been cleared to play. Check out the updated report, complete with game status designations, here. In addition, Jenkins and Head Coach Lovie Smith addressed several other topics on Friday after the last practice of the week.
Head Coach Lovie Smith
"Guys we have met so many times, what else is there for us to talk about? We need to get to this game pretty bad, don't we? I know you feel that way, we feel that way too and that's where our football team is. We started that countdown clock back in March and I'll just, [were] a lot of days before Carolina and now a couple of more left. A lot of practice, a lot of question marks early on, personnel, who's starting and who's dressing? Normally if you just start practicing and you keep watching, they kind of tell you what you need to know. We feel like we know our football team enough on where to put people and how to start the game and preseason is different than the regular season. You can prepare, but there are a lot of things that we're going to find out, by getting to this game. We're excited and we're ready to go. We have some players that won't play, but for us the ones that are playing, we're going to try and put them in good positions and let them play ball. [Offensive coordinator] Jeff Tedford is getting better. I know that I've said that each day, but he is getting better. Today he was out [at practice] – I think most you went inside into the shade and we stayed out there in the sun, he was out at practice. That's a step in the right direction and he'll be a game time decision."
On if Tedford has been cleared by the doctors:
"He's been cleared to come back to work on a limited basis. That limited can mean quite a bit, but limited could mean quite a bit if you look down our injury report. That last step a little bit is being able to go out in Tampa and if you can go out on that practice field, that's saying quite a bit about the progress that you're making. I'm not going to go into what the doctors say. I thought I was giving you a lot of information on Jeff in practice, I thought that. I was trying to come over, but you keep asking for more. He's getting better and he was out at practice, that's all I know right now. I would never talk about what the doctors say to him either and they're not talking to me, I'm talking through him."
On if Tedford attended the entire practice:
"He was out there, yes. From the time special teams – first part of special teams and then we go into our offensive and defensive phases of practice and he was out there for that."
On if Tedford will be at the stadium on Sunday:
"Jeff is getting better and there's no more. Don't look too much into what I said, he's getting better and he was here. We told you earlier he came into the office a couple of days. Today he came in again and he was out there a while, that's all I can tell you. I hadn't looked into it any deeper than that, there's no angle I'm trying – that's what it is."
On quarterback's playing with a rib injury:
"I think just in general for the common people like us that don't play, you feel a rib injury and it feels a lot better when you're not getting hit, but if you think there's a chance that you might get hit then there is some concerns of course. I also know that a rib injury can mean an awful lot of things and most guys have something that's ailing them right now. We've been practicing for Number One [Carolina] quarterback Cam Newton: all week as the quarterback, we assume he'll be full speed and ready to go if they put him out there and if he needs a little protection, they'll protect him, but it shouldn't affect the game at all. That's how we're looking at it. We want to get after any quarterback that comes here and any quarterback throughout the year, we have to get pressure on the quarterback period."
CB Mike Jenkins
On how frustrating it was to miss training camp:
"Very frustrating. It's my first time missing the whole camp. A few years ago, I had surgery and I still didn't miss camp. I came back to practice, so this is the first time experiencing something like this. It's very frustrating not being out there and being able to help the defense get better, help the coaches see every piece that they wanted to see. I wasn't on the same timing as the coaches so it was frustrating for me and I think it was frustrating a little bit for them too."
On what it means to him to remain the starter on the depth chart despite missing extended time with an injury:
"It means a lot. It shows a lot from the coaches. It shows that they still have trust in me. I feel like when I was out here, I put in enough work. I grind hard."
On if he feels the defense is behind with him missing time along with safety Dashon Goldson missing OTAs:
"Not really. Guys have got to step up. We're all on the same level. If I was out, I don't think we'd be missing any steps. If Dashon was out, we aren't missing any steps. We have Major [Wright] coming in, filling in for him, [Johnthan] Banks coming in, filling in for me if I was to be down. I think we're all right there level-wise because we help each other and we're all doing the same thing. Honestly, I don't think [the defense is behind]. I don't think we're where we want to be at right now as far as plan, but that's going to come with more reps. The more reps we get together, the more comfortable we get together. It's going to jell together."