As an NFL rookie, Kendell Beckwith made a quicker-than-expected return from a college knee injury and proved to be an immediate asset to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense. As a second-year player, Beckwith has had a much more frustrating wait to get on the field.
That wait is over. On Wednesday, Beckwith returned to practice for the first time since sustaining a serious ankle injury in an April car accident in which he was a passenger. The injury required surgery and Beckwith missed the bulk of the Buccaneers' offseason program before starting training camp on the active/non-football-injury (NFI) list. When he still wasn't able to begin work at the start of the regular season, he was moved to the reserve/NFI list.
That move required him to miss at least the first six weeks of the season. He was first eligible to return to practice two weeks ago; now that he has done so, a 21-day window begins in which he can practice but does not count against the 53-man roster. The Buccaneers can activate him to the roster at any time in the next three weeks and have him available for games.
By the end of that 21-day window, the Buccaneers must choose to either do so or have Beckwith remain on the reserve list for the remainder of the season. That means the latest the team could activate the second-year defender is before their Week 12 game against San Francisco (Nov. 25).
Beckwith's potential return could be a boon for a defense that lost its starting middle linebacker and emotional leader, Kwon Alexander, to a season-ending knee injury in Week Seven. Both Alexander and rookie linebacker Jack Cichy landed on injured reserve after the win over Cleveland on Nov. 21, and the team has since signed linebackers Riley Bullough and Kevin Minter. Linebacker Devante Bond had been re-signed just before the Cleveland game. Bullough and Bond have previous experience in the Bucs' defense and were candidates to make the roster out of training camp before suffering twin foot injuries.
If healthy, Beckwith could help the Buccaneers in the middle of their defense. With Alexander in place at middle linebacker, Beckwith started his rookie season on the strong side but later filled in for Alexander when his former LSU teammate missed five weeks due to injury. He appeared in all 16 games last year, starting nine, and contributed 73 tackles, seven tackles for loss, one sack, two quarterback hits, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.