The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had Jacquies Smith practicing for the first time since September 2016 today—almost exactly one year since he tore his ACL in last year’s season opener.
Participating in practice isn’t quite the same thing as actually playing, though, and it’s still unclear when Smith will be able to play. Head coach Dirk Koetter today said that he didn’t think Smith was “too far off” from returning to play, but no one knows what means, exactly.
Coach Koetter says DE Jacquies Smith got a few reps today. Says he doesn't think Smith is too far off from returning to game action.— Scott Smith (@ScottSBucs) September 4, 2017
The Bucs will want to get Smith on the field as quickly as possible, because they desperately need some kind of pass rush. The defensive line did not get much done in preseason, and Noah Spence and Robert Ayers are the only other competent edge rushers on the roster—with Spence mostly being potential, and Ayers more of a steady eddy than an explosive rusher.
Of course, Smith may not be ready to be the explosive rusher he can be. He has never produced consistently, but looked like he was set for a breakout year before his ACL injury. But it can take NFL players a while to fully recover from a knee injury (if they ever do), both mentally and physically, so expecting Smith to produce that breakout season may be a bit much.