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Buccaneers place Jason Pierre-Paul on Reserve/NFI list

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Pierre-Paul will be out for the first six weeks — at least — as he recovers from his neck injury.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers are placing Jason Pierre-Paul on the reserve/non-football injury list, according to a Friday report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter:

This wasn’t an unexpected move for Tampa Bay as it cuts the roster down to 53 ahead of the regular season. Pierre-Paul, who suffered a neck injury in an offseason car accident, is on his way to recovery but would be unavailable in the early part of the season anyway.

He took a big step forward in the process just a few days ago, as it was reported that he has been cleared by the team and independent doctors to resume rehab activities. He was seen on the sidelines at practice earlier this week without a neck brace.

Missing the first six weeks of the season — at least — follows the timetable initially suspected for the injury. Pierre-Paul decided to let his neck heal on its own instead of undergoing surgery, putting his best-case recovery timetable at five to six months. That would mean an October or November return at the earliest. Being eligible after the Week 6 game in London against the Carolina Panthers would mean a mid-October return.

Of course, we can’t be completely sure he’ll be ready by then either. With something as serious as a neck injury, there’s no telling when Pierre-Paul might be back to full strength. Things look to be progressing as much as anyone could hope, but the Bucs will surely ensure that he isn’t rushed. Too much is at stake regardless of any on-field ramifications.

The current depth chart for Todd Bowles’ defense on Buccaneers.com lists Carl Nassib and Noah Spence as the two starting outside linebackers in Pierre-Paul’s absence. That could certainly change in the coming days, though, depending on cuts, waiver-wire moves or some sort of trade.