Up next: Bucs waiting on suspended safety

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are hoping safety Tanard Jackson can rejoin the team. Jackson, a key member of the Bucs' secondary for the past four seasons, making 46 starts, including 16 as a rookie on the Bucs' 2007 NFC South championship team, was suspended for a minimum of one year by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last year for violating the substance-abuse policy.

He became eligible to be reinstated last week, but there has been no update from the league.

"You know, that's really a league matter," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "I'm sure (general manager) Mark Dominik is doing his due diligence and whatever he needs to do with that. For me, I've got to control the product on the field with the guys in my locker room. That's what I'm really concerned about."

The Bucs really need Jackson. Safety Cody Grimm was placed on injured reserve last week with a torn knee ligament he suffered in a game against the Atlanta Falcons. It was the second straight year Grimm's season has been cut short. Last season, he missed the final six games after breaking his left fibula against the Baltimore Ravens

The Bucs are privately frustrated by the lack of progress in Jackson's reinstatement. While they're only speculating, they believe that the NFL lockout may have prevented the league from monitoring his progress and possibly slowed Jackson's ability to meet the requirements for reinstatement.

In the meantime, the Bucs will alternate backups Corey Lynch and Larry Asante at free safety. Strong safety Sean Jones will often change roles and play free safety in certain scenarios. Grimm was typically asked to be the eighth defender near the line of scrimmage in running situations. But Lynch and Asante are less suited for that role, meaning Jones will be called upon to fulfill it when needed.

"You'll see him move around a little bit," Morris said of Jones. "You'd like to see him as the guy down in the box making some plays. He'll do some different things. I have a lot of confidence in Larry playing in the box. You saw him in the box playing free (safety) in the preseason. We've seen Corey go in the box a little bit in the preseason.

"But we'll do a little more rotating and center the game plan more around (Jones). There's no secret there. We did that with him last year when we lost Cody."

Jones took on a similar role when Grimm was lost for the final five games of 2010 because of a broken leg.

Jones, 29, has drawn raves from coaches for his play since the preseason. He says remaining in the system for a second year after changing teams twice in two years has been a boost for him.

"This is really the first time in my career I can play the same defense two years in a row," Jones said. "I'm definitely learning new stuff, different nuances each and every day, and it's helping me out a lot. I can just continue to get better and better. Honestly speaking, I think I had some good years in the past, but I still feel my brightest days are in front of me."

TRENDING: Fullback Earnest Graham is becoming the go-to check down receiver for quarterback Josh Freeman. Graham took over the third-down running back role fulfilled the last two seasons by Cadillac Williams. This season, he leads the Bucs with 20 receptions for 116 yards entering Monday's game.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Bucs have reached the opposition's 20-yard line 11 times and have three touchdowns (ranking 31st among 32 teams) in their first three games. Against Atlanta, the Bucs scored a touchdown once in four red-zone trips. In the opener against Detroit, the Bucs also went 1-for-4.

"Turnovers in the red zone are unacceptable," said quarterback Josh Freeman, who has been intercepted in the end zone in consecutive games entering Monday's game.

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