The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must decide whether or not to active linebacker Kendell Beckwith from the reserve/non-football-injury (NFI) list before Wednesday, November 21. And there is considerably more optimism that Beckwith can make it back from his offseason ankle injury than there was when this week began.
"I'll just say it's a lot brighter today than it was three days ago," said Head Coach Dirk Koetter after Friday's practice at the AdventHealth Training Center. "We'll just have to see how the next little-less-than-a-week plays out."
Beckwith sustained a serious ankle injury as a passenger in a car accident in April and underwent surgery shortly thereafter. He missed most of the team's offseason program and then was placed on the active/NFI list to start training camp. When he was not ready to resume on-field work at the end of the preseason, he was placed on the reserve/NFI list, which required him to be out for at least the first six weeks of the season. After that a five-week window began in which the Beckwith could return to practice, after which a 21-day window would begin in which he could practice without counting against the active roster.
The Buccaneers began that 21-day window on Wednesday, October 31, and it will end on Tuesday, November 20. Beckwith, who will not be activated for Sunday's game against the visiting Washington Redskins, can continue to practice with a roster exemption next week, and hopefully continue to progress. His three field sessions this week were apparently a significant improvement over his first three practices in Week Nine.
"Kendell had a much better week this week than he did last week," said Koetter. "Again, as I said earlier in the week, it will be a combination of the doctors – the doctors have got to give him full clearance – and then he's going to have feel good about it."
The Buccaneers could choose to activate Beckwith for their Week 11 game against the New York Giants but will not be forced to make a decision until the following Tuesday. The deadline comes prior to the team beginning practice for their Week 12 game against the San Francisco 49ers.
The return of a healthy Beckwith could be a boon for a Buccaneer defense that lost starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander to a season-ending knee injury in Week Seven. Since Alexander went down, Adarius Taylor has taken over as the starting middle linebacker and Devante Bond has assumed Taylor's old job on the strong side. Beckwith started at both positions as a rookie in 2017 and was expected to be the team's third starting linebacker this season alongside Alexander and Lavonte David.
If Beckwith does make it back on the field, it will be the second time in as many NFL seasons that he has overcome a significant injury. The Buccaneers drafted the former LSU star in the third round in 2017 but they were not sure at the time how soon he would return from a torn ACL suffered late in his last collegiate season. As it turned out, Beckwith was cleared by the start of training camp and never missed a game. He finished his promising rookie campaign with nine starts, 73 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two passes defensed.