TAMPA — It’s starting to look like Jeff Tedford’s debut as an NFL play-caller might be pushed back for a while.
Tedford continues to show improvement from an undisclosed medical procedure, Bucs coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. But Smith offered no assurances the former Cal coach will be calling plays in the booth at Raymond James Stadium during Sunday’s season opener against the Panthers.
Tedford has visited the team facility several times since the procedure, Smith said. If Tedford is unavailable Sunday, Tampa Bay’s offensive staff is expected to fill in against a defense ranked No. 2 in the league last season.
“It’s been an adjustment because, obviously, you have one guy who’s leading the offense the whole spring and summer and now you take him out of there,’’ Bucs QB Josh McCown said. “There’s going to be some adjustments, but the coaches have done an outstanding job of picking up where they needed to and coming together and being able to present us with a plan.
“Hat’s off to those guys. We certainly miss Jeff and wish him the best. When he’s back, he’s back, and we’ll be excited about that, but for right now the coaches have done a great job of picking up the slack.’’
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner has seen enough tape of former Florida State standout Kelvin Benjamin to know Tampa Bay’s secondary faces a big challenge Sunday.
The Panthers drafted Benjamin in the first round after the 6-foot-5 wide receiver helped the Seminoles to a national championship with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns, tying the school record.
At 5-foot-10, Verner gives up seven inches to Benjamin, who caught the game-winning 2-yard TD pass with only 13 seconds remaining in the BCS championship game against Auburn.
“He’s looked really good,’’ Verner said of Benjamin, who led Carolina with 12 receptions for 173 yards and a score in the preseason. “He’s made a lot of plays and he’s somebody we have to look out for. He uses his body well and what I was most impressed by was his catching ability. Tight windows, open windows ... I didn’t see him drop many passes.’’
Benjamin is expected to play a prominent role in QB Cam Newton’s passing attack following the departure of veteran WR Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore as a free agent.
“We’re going to have to be real physical with Benjamin,’’ Verner said.
Churning the roster
RT Demar Dotson, who joined the Bucs as a free agent in 2009, is the longest-tenured player on the Tampa Bay roster. When he looked around the locker room Wednesday, Dotson realized he and DT Gerald McCoy are the only Bucs remaining from the 2010 club that won 10 games under Raheem Morris.
“McCoy has been here since 2010, so we’re some of the last Mohicans,” Dotson said. “I don’t take it for granted, because if I don’t do my stuff, then next year it’ll be just McCoy.”
The Bucs placed rookie RB Charles Sims (ankle) on injured reserve with a designation to return and re-signed S Major Wright. ...Carolina’s Greg Olsen is the only active tight end with at least five receiving touchdowns in each season since 2008.