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Injury concerns don't keep Bucs from drafting DE Bowers

TAMPA, Fla. -- Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and now Cam Newton.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked around the rest of the NFC South and concluded that to enhance their chances of winning their division, it was imperative to improve the club's ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks with a strong pass rush.

After taking defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers with their first two picks in the NFL draft, general manager Mark Dominik feels they've done that.

Bowers, rated as a possible top-five pick before undergoing right-knee surgery, was the club's second-round selection at No. 51 overall Friday night.

The former Clemson star led the nation with 15.5 sacks last season and said he's motivated to prove other teams erred in bypassing him because of concerns about his injury.

"The last 24 hours have been crazy long," Bowers said. "It's been grueling just waiting for that one phone call. I'm just glad for the opportunity that Tampa Bay gave me. I just want to show them that they made a great pick, and it wasn't a mistake."

He said he's excited about the prospect of lining up on the end opposite Clayborn, the ex-Iowa sackmaster selected in Thursday's first round.

"I'm definitely motivated," Bowers said. "I'm just ready to get in Tampa and show everybody what I'm capable of doing and showing them that they picked a great athlete and a great guy."

The Bucs stayed on the defensive in the third round, adding linebacker Mason Foster, who had 6.5 sacks as a senior at the University of Washington.

It's the second straight year Dominik and coach Raheem Morris have used their top two picks on defensive linemen. Tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price were taken in the first two rounds in 2010.

Clayborn's selection at No. 20 overall was not a surprise. Bowers' talent is unquestioned, but many teams shied away from the 6-foot-4, 277-pound end from Bamberg, S.C., because of speculation that he may again need knee surgery and possibly could have a short career.

Picking late in the second round, the Bucs felt he was too good a prospect to ignore.

"Obviously, we did a lot of research on this pick. For me, the value ... was just too strong," Dominik said, adding that the Bucs are not among the teams concerned about how long it might take Bowers to recover from his current injury nor if major surgery might eventually be required.

Might there be a chance Bowers will not be able to play in 2011?

"We don't see that," Dominik said. "What we will do is everything we can to get him on the field when it's appropriate to get him on the football field. That should be some time this season."

Without elaborating or getting into specifics, Bowers said his knee is "fine" and "getting better every day."

"I'll be ready to get on the field whenever they need me to," he said. "Whenever they say, 'Da'Quan, we're ready for you to hit the field,' I'm going to hit the field running -- whether that be in two weeks or two months. Whenever they give me the go, I'm going."

The Bucs plan to play Bowers at left end and use Clayborn, who had 19 career sacks at Iowa, at right end.

The hope is both will help McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, realize his potential after starting slowly and finishing with three sacks as a rookie.

Clayborn, who received a congratulatory call from McCoy on draft night, is excited about being part of a young defensive line that can grow and prosper together.

"It's not going to happen right away. But I think definitely we're going to build something here that's going to be great," Clayborn said during a visit Friday to the Bucs' training facility.

"I'm going to step into a situation where it's going to be a lot expected of me, but at the same time I'm going to have help along the way," Clayborn said. "Like I said, getting that call from Gerald and him kind of telling me he's going to be there for me and will lead me through it gives me confidence."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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