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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs notes: Okoye sidelined for minicamp after knee scope

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:31 PM
TAMPA -

The battered Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive line suffered another setback.

Reserve DT Amobi Okoye recently had a knee scope that is keeping him off the field for this week's mandatory minicamp, the team revealed Tuesday. He is expected back for the start of training camp.

Still, Okoye's absence is the latest in a string of losses on the defensive front.

The Bucs also are without end Da'Quan Bowers, who ruptured an Achilles tendon, and tackle Brian Price, who was excused to work out on his own in Los Angeles after the recent death of his sister.

Tampa Bay signed Okoye as a free agent during the offseason to bolster a position that was undermined in 2011 by the loss of starting DT Gerald McCoy for 10 games because of a torn biceps. Also, Price played at about 60 percent capacity last year after having surgery to reattach his hamstring muscles to his pelvis.

Okoye, 25, had four sacks last season with the Bears and 11 the previous four seasons with the Texans.

The Buccaneers haven't given up hope of seeing Bowers on the field this year.

"That's a huge loss,'' coach Greg Schiano said of the pass rusher selected early in the second round of the 2011 draft. "In sports, you move on and you fill in, but you can't overlook that. He was set to have a great year, I thought. And we're going to get him back I hope, but it's going to be later in the year, rather than earlier.''

Tampa Bay's three-day minicamp, which began Tuesday, concludes the offseason program. Practices are closed to the public.

Fighting for jobs

Now that he's had a few months to work with players and evaluate their talent level, Schiano is convinced the competition for roster spots will be intense during training camp.

Though some starters are obvious, he said, competition already is raging at several positions that could result in some NFL-caliber players being banished to the street.

One area of depth is the secondary, which underwent a major overhaul with the addition through free agency of CB Eric Wright, the selection of safety Mark Barron in the first round of the draft and the shift of veteran Ronde Barber from corner to safety.

"We have some good defensive backs,'' Schiano said. "At the end of the day, we're probably going to have to let go of a defensive back who can play in this league, and that's tough, but it's a good problem to have.''

Competition for starting spots at wide receiver, running back and linebacker could be interesting, Schiano said. The battle for jobs across both lines, however, will be a little different.

"The offensive line is kind of set,'' Schiano said. "But who's the sixth, who's the seventh guy there? That's something we have to figure out.''

Fresh start

Michael Bennett, who figures to replace Bowers as the starter at left defensive end, is thankful the 2011 season is behind him.

"I'm over it now,'' he said of the 10-game game losing streak that closed out a 4-12 season. "It's a new season and I feel we can be the best defense in the NFL. Players have confidence, and coaches preach it every day. A lot of things happened last year and people had their heads down. This is a new year and we've got to attack our chance and make the best of it.''

After nine years in the NFL with the Colts, TE Dallas Clark knows the Bucs have an opportunity to make a significant jump in the standings.

"That's why I never make predictions,'' Clark said. "I don't play that game. I know this league and I know anything can happen.''

Extra points

Tampa Bay's rookie class will visit MacDill Air Force Base on Friday, touring a hurricane aircraft and meeting with base personnel. … Seven of the 90 players on Tampa Bay's roster hail from Rutgers, where Schiano coached for 11 years before succeeding Raheem Morris in Tampa.

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