The Bucs signed J.R. Sweezy away from Seattle in March, hoping to add a formidable run-blocker to fill the void left by Logan Mankins and help the offense progress on a promising season in 2015.
But after inking the fifth-year guard to a five-year, $32 million deal, Sweezy suffered a back injury and underwent surgery. He was sidelined the entire season, including training camp. Initially on the PUP list – which meant missing at least the first five games – Sweezy was later placed on IR in November, leaving his future in Tampa in question.
Though his status for 2017 still seems up in the air, Sweezy sounded confident in his return to action when speaking with Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times on Monday.
“I don’t want to say I’m going to do something when I’m not,” Sweezy said, via Auman. “I’m taking it one day at a time. I’m very confident that I will be ready but, that being said, again, just one day at a time, just getting better. … I’m just looking forward to next season and continuing to get better every day.”
Sweezy, who had missed just one start since 2014, called the misfortune of 2016 “probably the hardest season I’ve ever been a part of.”
“These guys are laying it on the line and winning ball games, and you just want to help,” he said. “It was very tough, but I think it’s made me grow a lot.”
During his final day-after-game press conference, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter touched upon the situation regarding Sweezy briefly – and honestly.
“I’m not a doctor, but what I do know is we haven’t seen him on the field,” Koetter said. “At this point, it’s been over a year since he’s played. We really don’t know what we have. Until we see him on the field healthy, that’s an unknown. If it ever comes to the point where we have a healthy J.R. Sweezy on the field, and he’s the player we thought we were getting when we were looking at that Seattle tape, I think he adds another one to the depth I already talked about on the O-line. Do we ever get to that point? I do not know that.”