Kendell Beckwith won't play in 2018, but is on a 'journey' to return

Kendell Beckwith was the Bucs' third-round pick in 2017 and finished his rookie season with 73 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers linebacker Kendell Beckwith, who became arguably Tampa's most dependable linebacker last season as a rookie stepping in to start all three positions, won't play in 2018.

Beckwith broke his ankle in an offseason car accident and underwent surgery, forcing him to miss the first 11 weeks of the season. Coach Dirk Koetter announced Monday that the Bucs were placing their 2017 third-round pick on injured reserve.

"Kendell made progress and he worked his tail off to get back," Koetter said. "I don't think people can appreciate how serious of a surgery he had. It was an uphill battle. He worked hard to get back, but he's just not going to get back to a point where he feels comfortable playing at the level that he knows he can play at."

Koetter said he was unsure about the long-term impact of the injury to Beckwith, who had overcome a torn ACL while at LSU to play all 16 games for the Bucs in 2017.

"It [the accident] happened at a bad time. That's just kind of how it went," said Beckwith, who remains optimistic about his future. "I don't think it's [threatening to] my career."

"It's just the journey, man. Everybody's on their own little journey. Life happens. Gotta roll with it and keep rolling. You can't go ball up in a corner and cry ... what's that gonna do?"

Beckwith, who settled in as the starting strongside linebacker last season, missed all of the 2018 training camp and began the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. He became eligible to practice with the team on Oct. 31 -- beginning a window of up to 21 days where he wouldn't count against the 53-man roster, but the team could in that time frame determine if he was ready to return.

He felt like he was nearing 100 percent as he had been jogging and testing out his ankle for the past two months. Koetter praised him for three strong practices last week.

Beckwith struggled to regain full flexibility in his ankle. Linebackers must constantly maintain soft knees so they can react and change directions quickly and bending of the ankle is a necessity.

"It's gonna go how it's gonna go -- that's out of my control. All I can do is keep working and keep doing what I know to do to get back healthy," Beckwith said.

Details about the accident

Beckwith doesn't think much about the car accident that happened last April. It doesn't keep him awake at night, but he does second-guess his decision to allow former LSU teammate and NFL free-agent linebacker Lamin Barrow, 27, to drive his high-powered Camaro. The friends were only going to the gas station, and Barrow had driven the car before.

Beckwith just didn't expect Barrow to floor the gas.

"I wish he would have said something. I probably would have been like, 'No. Don't do that. But he just did it,'" Beckwith said. "I think he just thought the car was gonna go fast, gonna take off down the road. But no. Not them cars. They're gonna spin, and it spun. The ditch was first. Then the fence. But we didn't really hit the fence. That was the ending part. We just kinda slid into it ... [after being] nose-down in a ditch. Into the ditch and into the fence," Beckwith said.

The airbags deployed, and Beckwith didn't feel much pain right away. The pain came after the surgery. His lip was split and his face was bloody.

"First thing, I was like, 'What the hell? What did you? What just happened?'" Beckwith recalled. "[Barrow] was more worried about me but he was probably in worse shape than I was. He broke his femur bone."

Following the accident, both men have remained friends.

Beckwith also knows it could have been much, much worse. Former NFL running back Isaiah Pead nearly lost his life in an auto accident two years ago. He was thrown from the vehicle, and was forced to undergo amputation of the majority of his left leg. Pead is now training for the Paralympics.

"I'm continuing to work and get it as strong as I can," Beckwith said. "I'm gonna roll. I'm not gonna let that hold me back."