The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31st-ranked defense received some much-needed help Monday when safety Tanard Jackson returned from his four-game suspension.
Jackson, who started 32 games in his first two seasons in the NFL, was suspended for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
The Bucs moved linebacker Jermaine Phillips back to safety to help fill the void left by Jackson at the start of the 2009 regular season, but Phillips suffered a season-ending thumb injury vs. Buffalo in Week 2.
Bucs S Will Allen has started in place of Jackson and Phillips over the last two games, and there's a chance he will start again vs. Philadelphia on Sunday depending on how quickly Jackson, who was not allowed to practice with the Bucs during his suspension, gets re-acclimated to football.
"You don't want to put too much on a guy who hasn't been here for four weeks as part of your team," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. "You guys know Tanard. You know what he is about. I'm sure he is eager to get back here. I'm eager to see him. This team will be eager to see him. We'll be excited about it, and it generates excitement in our football team. Like I said last night, there is no comfort to losing. We don't feel any better about losing any football games, but when you walk in today and see Tanard Jackson. That'll help you out with your teammates, help out your guys, that'll help you out with everybody. Tanard is that type of guy. He made a mistake, and he's paying for it. Hopefully he can come back and help us win some football games."
A 2007 fourth-round pick out of Syracuse, Jackson has registered 180 tackles, one sack, three interceptions and 19 passes defensed for the Bucs.
Tampa Bay's secondary has allowed several deep passing plays to opposing offenses through the first quarter of the 2009 regular season. While some touchdowns have come vs. Tampa Bay's cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage, the Bucs believe Jackson's presence in the secondary can help limit those types of mistakes.
"He's going to be hungry," said Allen. "He was suspended and didn't have a paycheck. I'm looking for great things from him. He'll play hard and play fast.
"Tanard comes with great tenacity and great energy. We're going to need that. He'll give us an extra edge, and he'll give Sabby and I a little more rest. Tanard was deeply missed."
In related news, the 0-4 Bucs are also closer to getting one of their key offensive starters back.
Bucs center Jeff Faine has been sidelined since Week 2 of the regular season with a torn triceps. Tampa Bay's offense, which ranks 27th overall in the NFL, has missed him, especially in the running game.
Although he won't be able to play vs. the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Faine is hoping to be able to return to action for Tampa Bay's home game vs. Carolina on Oct. 18.
"I've made a tremendous amount of progress," said Faine. "I think I'm ahead of schedule. We're just being safe about it now. The doctors don't think it's a good idea to get back out there and risk re-injuring it. Hopefully it's just one more week.
"If it was up to me I'd be playing this week, but it's not the smart thing to do."