FAB 4. Beckwith’s Head Games
Kendell Beckwith, Tampa Bay’s second-year SAM linebacker, wasn’t happy watching the last training camp practice from the sidelines, which is where he spent the entire camp due to his recovery from a fractured ankle from an offseason car accident.
But he had a smile on his face because despite missing every rep of OTAs (organized team activities), mini-camp and training camp he was one step closer to being back on the field. It’s been a long, hard road for a guy that loves football and being forced to watch the game from the sidelines.
“It sucks because the hardest part about being injured is just sitting on the sidelines and watching guys work and compete,” Beckwith said. “All I can do is use my imagination and just think about how I would play certain things and how I would cover certain guys. How would I fit that? That’s basically what I do all day.”
Mental reps – two words that no football player likes to hear. Every player would rather be on the field taking live reps instead.
But for Beckwith, it’s been a month of playing head games every day on the practice field, and watching and waiting.
“I don’t like it – I’m not a fan of it at all,” Beckwith said. “But it’s definitely time for me to use to get better at the mental side of things. It’s different watching it from the sidelines instead of being out there actually doing stuff. This is time I’m using to really get the mental side down and really be in tune with our defense. All I can do is imagine what I would do out there and learn from watching other guys make mistakes.”
He might have to be watching a little more. Although he has been doing some running, Beckwith has yet to be cleared to practice. That may force the Bucs to place Beckwith on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list to start the season, which would cause him to miss the first six games of the year. That decision may not be made until roster cut-down day on September 1.
“I’m one of those guys where I believe everything happens for a reason,” Beckwith said. “I don’t look at things from a negative aspect. I try to be positive and learn from everything. Playing as much as I did last year as a rookie was definitely helpful for me now.”
Beckwith was fortunate to start all 16 games during his rookie season, including several at middle linebacker for former LSU teammate Kwon Alexander when he was injured. Quite a few rookies don’t get to play a lot and don’t have a lot of their own film to watch and evaluate in the offseason, but Beckwith does after recording 73 tackles with one sack and one forced fumble while playing middle linebacker and strongside linebacker.
“I feel real comfortable at both of those positions,” Beckwith said. “MIKE was the position I played in college, so that was no big deal. When they asked me to step in and play for Kwon it was no big deal at all. SAM was a little new for me, but I caught on and I was able to get some things done at the position. I enjoy it.”
Beckwith’s injury has allowed the Bucs to get a long look at Adarius Taylor and rookie Jack Cichy and accelerate their learning curves at the SAM position. But the team is hopeful that Beckwith’s rehab and recovery accelerates over the next two weeks so it can avoid putting him on PUP.
Beckwith has been doing his part by working out hard in the weight room to lean down, and he’s excited that he has been recently cleared to resume running.
“Physically, I’m good,” Beckwith said. “I weighed in a couple of pounds down from last year and I really had to make sure I was watching what I eat [because of my ankle injury]. I’m feeling good.
“I’m 238 right now. Last year I played at 245 and it’s all good weight now. I’ve been eating right and working out, and that was important because I couldn’t run for a bit. I weighed in at 238 the other day and that was light as I’ve been since maybe high school. I like that, though. I want to play lighter and be as fast as I can possibly be and get after it. I’m ready to go.”
Well, he’s almost ready to go. Beckwith is almost ready to show that the mental reps he’s been forced to take will pay off when it once again takes the field. When he does resume playing, nothing will catch him off guard.
Nothing like the wreck he was involved in during the offseason. He was involved in a single-car crash in the offseason where the vehicle he was traveling in went in a ditch. The force of the impact caused Beckwith to break his ankle when his foot hit the floorboard hard.
“When it happened it completely caught me off guard,” Beckwith said. “I was able to walk out of the car, but my ankle felt weird. I knew something wasn’t right, but it’s fixed now. I’m going to have an even better year this year than I did last year.
“It could have been a lot worse. I’m just blessed to be here. This will be my last one – my last injury. I’m calling it right now. I got it out of the way early, so I’m done.”