The Tampa Bay Buccaneers said they wouldn't activate Da'Quan Bowers from the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list until he was fully cleared to play. They also said that when Bowers was activated, they wouldn't hesitate to put him on the field.
Thus, Buccaneer fans should expect to see Bowers in action on Thursday night after he was added to the active roster in time for the team's prime-time game with the Minnesota Vikings. To make room on the 53-man roster, the team waived cornerback LeQuan Lewis.
Bowers was brought up just eight days after the team started its 21-day evaluation period on the second-year defensive end, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in May. He began the regular season on PUP, which meant he was not eligible to practice or play for the team for at least six weeks. After those six weeks, the Bucs could choose to start a three-week window in which Bowers could practice but did not count against the 53-man limit. He needed only a little over a week to prove to the Bucs coaches and medical staff that he was ready for action.
The Bucs may choose to bring the former Clemson star along slowly, with only a limited number of snaps on Thursday night. In terms of the remainder of the season, however, his return may be a boon for a team that could use some help at the defensive end position. That became a more critical issue in Week Three, when the team's 2011 sack leader, Adrian Clayborn, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Since Clayborn landed on injured reserve, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has started at right end while Michael Bennett has continued to man the left end position. Bowers played both positions during his dominant college career.
It seems clear that the Bucs' pass rush has suffered since the loss of Clayborn. Tampa Bay had seven sacks through its first three games – most of that by Bennett and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy – but has tallied just one sack in the last three outings. Bennett and McCoy have confirmed that they have seen more double-team blocking since Clayborn went down.
Coincidentally, the Buccaneers have experience easing Bowers back into action. Once thought to be a possibility for the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bowers slipped to the thankful Buccaneers in the second round due to concerns over his post-2010 knee surgery. Tampa Bay's evaluations led them to believe that Bowers would be able to recover fully from that knee injury, but they did bring him along slowly by a rookie. However, he came on very strong at the end of the season and was the team's starter at left end for the final six contests. During that span, he posted 15 tackles, five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback pressures and three passes defensed.
Lewis was just promoted to the active roster from the practice squad last Saturday, and he played on special teams in the team's game against New Orleans on Sunday. Earlier this season, Lewis also played against the Buccaneers as a member of the Dallas Cowboys in Week Three. He has also spent time with Tennessee and the New York Jets.