To much of the NFL, OTAs are a time to get familiar with new teammates, reconnect with the coaching staff and prepare yourself for training camp. But to Bucs defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers, OTAs are a time to test the body. Both players are coming off major injuries in 2012. Clayborn tore his ACL in week 3 against the Dallas Cowboys, while Bowers tore his achilles this time a year ago during offseason workouts. But where their journeys to recovery may be different, they intend for their end results to be the same; be better than before.
It seemed as though the sky was the limit for Adrian Clayborn after he finished his rookie season leading the Bucs in sacks with 7.5. But fate had other plans for the young defensive end when his season ended abruptly to a major knee injury early in 2012. Since then, Clayborn has been on an intense–yet cautious–track to not only fix his knee, but make it better than ever. When quoted in Captain’s Blog, Clayborn explained he’s back to his old self with some new found strength to boot.
It just feels great to be out here, and to be stronger, upper body-wise. They’re just holding me back to be smart about it. But everything I’ve been doing, I’ve been great at. So I’m good.
Da’Quan Bowers’ journey back to form has been a bit different. He had his injury early enough in the year to make it back in time to see significant minutes in 2012. But despite finishing the season 4th on the team in sacks (3.0), the Tampa Bay Times reported Bowers says his maturity to this point has been in question as well.
It’s not only injuries, but (my) play. I haven’t been the dominant player that I know I can be…I have a lot of potential to be one of the best and the elite at what (I) do, and I haven’t shown that at this level yet….I think my maturation process is going on now and a lot of it has already passed. So I’m just looking for an opportunity now.
It seems as though BucsNation aren’t the only ones with high expectations of Bowers; he has them of himself as well. Maybe this injury was what Bowers needed to get his mind right and be the player that was once regarded as a top 3 pick in the NFL draft.
As for the horizon, the Bucs will look to make themselves a top 10 defense in 2013 despite being the second youngest defense in the NFL. People think that the front office finally focused on rebuilding the defense this year by acquiring Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, but in reality, that rebuilding started to take top priority back in 2011 when the team trusted its future to Clayborn and Bowers. Now healthy and motived, these two have the potential to revive a defensive culture that Tampa hasn’t seen since the early 2000s.