Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan watched Anthony Gaitor practice for the first time since August on Wednesday and thought the second-year cornerback picked up right where he left off.
“He seemed fine,” said Sheridan. “He reminded me of what he looked like in camp before he got nicked up. I think he will be fine.”
If Sheridan’s words seem more matter-of-fact than gushing, they still are a very good sign. That’s because Gaitor was indeed playing very well before he suffered the hamstring injury that has cost him roughly three months of action.
In just two preseason games – and very few players see a full game’s worth of action on any given preseason weekend – Gaitor racked up nine tackles, five sacks and a very impressive five passes defensed. As a rookie who saw only sparing defensive playing time in 2011, Gaitor nonetheless developed a somewhat under-the-radar reputation as a player who just seemed to be around the football a lot. He was building rapidly on that reputation before his injury midway through this preseason.
“I feel like I was at my best,” he agreed on Wednesday. “But things happen; it’s football. Things happen and you can’t dwell on the past. You’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
After sitting out the first four games of the season while waiting for his hamstring to come around, Gaitor was placed on injured reserve, but with the new “designated for return” option. He can return to game action after missing eight contests, and he started practicing on Wednesday to prepare for that return. The team has a window of up to 21 days during which it can have Gaitor on the practice field without him counting against the 53-man roster, but there’s a good chance the former Florida International standout will be activated in time for the Week 14 game against Philadelphia.
“I’m just going to take it one day at a time,” he said. “When that day comes for me to get back on the field, I’m going to be ready. I’m just getting better and waiting for my opportunity. I tried not to let [the long layoff] get to me. I knew I was coming back. My whole focus was to get better, get my hamstring right and just focus on getting ready to get back out there.”
He took a fine first step in that direction on Wednesday.