Lockout could challenge Bucs' Benn

Colleague Mike Sando wrote a great story about players who have a lot to lose in a potential labor lockout. All the division guys fed stuff to Sando, he compiled it and you can see his entire story here.

If you just want to see the NFC South component of the story, here it is:

There aren’t many NFL players with more to lose in a potential lockout than Tampa Bay wide receiver Arrelious Benn.

A second-round draft pick last season, Benn was just starting to show flashes of his potential when he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 16. In a normal offseason, Benn would rehab his knee under the microscope of the team’s medical staff and get some valuable offseason work with quarterback Josh Freeman and fellow receiver and draft classmate Mike Williams on the field.

But this offseason might be far from normal. A lockout would prevent Benn (and all the other players) from even entering One Buccaneer Place. He wouldn’t be able to interact with any team personnel, and that includes the medical staff. In other words, Benn would have to finish rehabilitating the injury on his own.

The Bucs have said they aren’t going to comment on the offseason progress of individual injuries, and they declined to make Benn available for comment for this story. But, in a recent interview with PewterReport.com, Benn said he already is getting around without a brace and is confident he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.

He wouldn’t go into great detail, but said he has alternative plans for his rehab if there is a lockout.

"Oh, yeah, I have a plan for what I’m going to do in rehab to get better," Benn said. "I’ll just be ready and go full speed ahead."

The speed may have to continue to come back with an independent medical and rehab team. But all indications are that Benn is progressing well. He took over the starting position opposite Williams last season, and the plan is for them to be together with Freeman for the long term.

The Bucs could have more to lose in a lockout than a lot of teams, and that’s not just because of Benn’s situation. After going 3-13 in 2009, Tampa Bay went 10-6 last season and had the league’s youngest roster. The arrow seemed to be pointing up for this franchise. But a lockout and the possible loss of offseason workouts with the coaching staff could be a blow to this team’s progress.

There is uncertainty, but Benn said he remains focused on being healthy for a productive second season. He might have to handle the rehab part of that on his own and, in some ways, the on-field work might have to be handled in a similar manner. Freeman has said several times he plans to lead regular workouts with his receivers if there is a lockout. Benn plans to take part in those workouts.

“We are a young team, but we have a lot of guys that want to be leaders,’’ Benn said. “I’m pretty sure we will organize something if we have to.’’