Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Odom's Return Imminent

Barring a weekend setback, T Jason Odom will return to practice on Tuesday, August 22

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T Jason Odom almost returned to practice on Friday but eventually confined his work to the weight room

The 'Jason Odom Watch' is about to experience a dramatic turn, but don't be fooled by the suddenness of the news. While Buccaneers.com learned on Friday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting left tackle will make a full return to practice next Tuesday, this welcome report is not the result of any drastic developments.

After spending most of the 2000 offseason in rehabilitation following November back surgery, Odom returned to full-contact practice on July 24 when the Bucs opened training camp. However, he was beset almost immediately by the return of pain in his lower back, and he has not practiced since. Over the last three weeks, repeated attempts to pinpoint the exact source of his pain have come up empty; however, treatment to alleviate the symptoms continued throughout that period.

After slow progress during the first few weeks, Odom's pace of recovery has picked up significantly since Monday and it appears he has turned the corner in his journey back to the lineup. The team even considered working the fifth-year lineman into a portion of Friday's practice, but ultimately settled on next Tuesday as the target, with a full weekend of conditioning work in between. While most of his teammates jet back and forth to Massachusetts, Odom will lift weights on Saturday and Sunday and continue to monitor the state of his back.

"That's what Todd's target date is," said Dungy of the team's next full-pads workout. "He's done some individual things, and the next step is to get the pads on in our next practice. Jason feels good right now, so we're hoping that will continue through the weekend."

Odom appeared in just three games last season before increasing discomfort in his legs and lower back forced him to the sideline. He was placed on injured reserve on November 24 and immediately underwent surgery to remove the herniated portion of a disk in his lower back. That 'discectomy' was designed to remove the pressure the troubled disc was putting on several nerves in the area, and it was deemed a success. His recent pain is in the same area of his back, but an MRI, which was examined by several doctors, showed no signs of structural damage.

Odom has played in 46 games over four-plus NFL seasons, starting 41. All but one of those starts has come at right tackle, but he was penciled in as Paul Gruber's replacement on the left side entering the 2000 season. Buccaneers.com reported on Wednesday that the team had not ruled out the possibility of Odom returning in time for the regular season opener, also in New England, on September 3. That certainly seems more likely after Friday's positive news.

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