Ryan Jensen, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Pro Bowl center, is back in action.
On Monday, the Buccaneers activated Jensen from their injured reserve list, making him eligible to play later that evening in the team's Wild Card playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. To make room on the 53-man roster, the Bucs waived inside linebacker J.J. Russell.
Jensen had been designated for return from I.R. on December 28, which opened a 21-day window in which he could practice with the team without counting against the active roster limit. He could be activated at any point during that window, which would have closed early next week. Jensen is the fifth player the Buccaneers have brought back from injured reserve this season, following the activations of tackle Josh Wells (Oct. 21), running back Giovani Bernard (Nov. 26), safety Logan Ryan (Dec. 5) and inside linebacker K.J. Britt (Dec. 10). Wells later returned to injured reserve.
Jensen suffered a knee injury on the second day of training camp and was placed on injured reserve on September 1. He last played in a game on January 23, 2022, when the Buccaneers faced the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round of last year's playoffs. Prior to his injury, Jensen had played in and started all 71 games, playoffs included, since joining the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
Jensen's return is fortuitously timed, as Tampa Bay's most pressing injury concerns for the Wild Card game are on the interior offensive line. Robert Hainsey, who stepped in after Jensen's injury and started all 17 regular season games at center, suffered a hamstring strain the previous weekend in Atlanta and has been limited in practice all week. Nick Leverett, who has started the past nine contests at left guard and was also the primary backup to Hainsey at center, is dealing with knee and shoulder ailments and did not practice on Thursday or Friday. John Molchon, a reserve option at both center and guard, sustained an ankle injury in Atlanta. Leverett is listed as doubtful to play on Monday night and both Hainsey and Molchon are questionable for the game.
Jensen earned his first Pro Bowl invitation last season after helping the Buccaneers allow the fewest sacks in the NFL while also racking up the most passing yards. He played his first four seasons for the Baltimore Ravens and has appeared in a total of 100 regular season games, starting 90 of them. After finishing his original four-year deal with the Buccaneers in 2021, Jensen remained with the team on a new three-year contract.
Russell joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent out of Memphis in May. He spent most of the season on the practice squad but has appeared in six games.
The Buccaneers and Cowboys kick off at 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, capping the first week of the NFL's 2022 playoffs.