TAMPA – The Buccaneers may be on the verge of getting back one of their most important players, a player who until last week might have also been one of their most under appreciated as well.
Starting right tackle Demar Dotson, the longest tenured Buccaneer, was back at practice on Tuesday for the first time since he was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol two weeks ago.
Now, this doesn’t mean Dotson is ready to play. To be released from the NFL’s concussion protocol a player must pass through several phases of recovery, including practicing without suffering a setback.
Still, the mere site of Dotson on the field with a helmet on a day in which the Bucs were not practicing in pads was a good sign, especially after what happened in Dallas last weekend.
Backup right tackle Gosder Cherilus, a starter and a good one for the Bucs in 13 games a year ago, looked like he might be ready for retirement against the Cowboys.
He was the player primarily responsible for stopping left end David Irving, who broke through and got a hand on quarterback Jameis Winston to force the fourth-quarter interception that all but ended the Bucs hopes.
Now, it turns out that Cherilus was fighting through a groin strain of some kind and he was eventually replaced by Leonard Wester after surrendering a couple more pressures, but Wester wasn’t much better.
No, the best the Bucs can hope for as they renew their bid for the playoffs with a game against the Saints in New Orleans this week is for Dotson to return and stabilize their struggling offensive line.
That seems possible now, though we won’t know just how possible until at least tomorrow. That’s because the first official injury report of the week won’t come out until then.
When it does come out that report may indicate that Dotson remains in the concussion protocol, but it might also not include him at all, which would tell us he’s been released from it.
As far early Christmas presents go, that would be a pretty good one for the Bucs, because Dotson has long been their most reliable and consistent run blocker and pass protector.
He’s one of those players whose value tends to go unnoticed, at least until he’s not there anymore, like last week, and then you realize just how valuable he really is.