Anthony Gaitor was back on the football field, between the lines rather than on the sideline, for the first time in over a month on Monday. He hopes that will mean a quick return to action on Sundays, as well.
Gaitor, the second-year cornerback who was something of a surprise find as a seventh-rounder out of Florida International in 2011, missed the first four games of the season due to a hamstring strain. His inactivity actually stretches back to the middle of August, as he suffered the injury during the preseason and missed the final two warm-up games, as well. Because recovery time for hamstring injuries can be difficult to predict – and too soon of a return can be very counterproductive – it’s been a week-to-week waiting game for Gaitor for a while now. He’s glad that’s over.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a couple weeks,” he said. “It’s good to be back.”
Gaitor obviously impressed the Bucs’ new coaching staff during the offseason and training camp, because he was kept on the 53-man roster to start the regular season despite his lingering injury. He didn’t get a chance to solidify a specific role on defense during the final two preseason games and he has only been able to watch as the Bucs have used quite a few different defensive backs in their nickel and dime packages. Brandon McDonald, Leonard Johnson, Ahmad Black and, just last week, E.J. Biggers have all gotten an opportunity to show what they can do in the Bucs’ new defense, while Gaitor has waited and recuperated.
He made sure that he didn’t let the lost month of opportunity bother him as he was working his way back.
“My whole main focus was to get healthy, because I knew what I could do when I got back,” said Gaitor. “Things like that weren’t going through my head – I just stayed focused and didn’t let that bother me. I didn’t want that to be a negative thing while I was hurting. I was just focused on getting healthy.”
What role Gaitor might be able to carve out is unclear at this point. He acknowledged on Monday that special teams might be the first way to get his foot back in the door when the 46-man game day active list is being formed on Sunday. With Biggers back and McDonald proving to be a solid option since his arrival in late August, Gaitor may have to bide his time.
“That’s up to the coaches,” he said. “I’m just going to go out there every day, practice, and do what I have to do to get back on the field.”