The Buccaneers can win the NFC South by beating the rival Panthers on Sunday. And they could have reinforcements up front for a potential playoff run. Days after losing offensive tackle Josh Wells to a season-ending knee injury, Tampa Bay announced Wednesday it has designated center Ryan Jensen to return from injured reserve. A 2021 Pro Bowler who's yet to play this year due to his own knee injury, Jensen is now eligible to join the active roster anytime in the next three weeks.
Signed to a three-year, $39 million extension this offseason after two seasons headlining Tom Brady's O-line, Jensen went down during training camp and landed on IR just before the start of the season. Coach Todd Bowles indicated at the time that Jensen might return late in the season, and now the Buccaneers have 21 days to officially activate him. Jensen could theoretically suit up for Sunday's Week 17 rematch with Carolina, but it might be more likely he'll return if Tampa Bay clinches a playoff berth.
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Second-year backup Robert Hainsey has started in place of Jensen up to this point. He is just one of several Bucs reserves to be called upon up front. Both tackles, Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs, have been sidelined with injuries in 2022, while Wells is headed to IR for the second time this season. Hainsey would be in line to remain at center if Jensen is not activated ahead of Sunday's game against the Panthers, with Brandon Walton serving as the club's top swing tackle.