Like any NFL cornerback, Myron Lewis is trying to keep his eyes fixed firmly ahead.
The recent past hasn't been particularly kind to the former third-round pick out of Vanderbilt who is struggling for playing time with the Buccaneers.
"I figured they brought me here for a reason," said Lewis, inactive last week against Carolina while seventh-round rookie Anthony Gaitor impressed the coaching staff filling in for injured Aqib Talib. "I love football and I want to prove to everyone around here that I can play this game."
Injuries have stalled his progress, but Lewis declared himself healthy and eager to contribute as the Bucs head to Jacksonville for Sunday's matchup, hoping to end a six-game slide.
A strained hamstring helped limit Lewis to only 10 games last year, and he hurt his ankle in the 2011 preseason finale at Washington.
In that same game, Elbert Mack enjoyed a stellar effort and appeared to jump Lewis in the pecking order at cornerback behind Talib, Ronde Barber and E.J. Biggers.
"When Myron gets his opportunity, he's got to step up to the plate and show us he's going to be the next guy," secondary coach Jimmy Lake said. "This could be the week. Last week, Talib (hamstring) went down and Anthony Gaitor became our fourth corner and played really well."
Lewis flashed some potential last December and the Bucs entered training camp this summer excited about his future. But since missing the first two games with the ankle injury, Lewis is wondering whether he fits in the organization's future plans.
He is listed as Talib's backup on the depth chart, but there's no guarantee Lewis will even play against the Jaguars.
"Most definitely, I'd love to show my skills a little more," said Lewis, who has made only one pro start. "I don't control that — it's a coach's decision. I do what I have to do and if they give me an opportunity to go out there, like I had at the end of last year, I'll be ready to show everybody what I've got."
Lewis hasn't distinguished himself this season when he has had a chance to make an impact.
Last month in Green Bay, Lewis was victimized by wide receiver Jordy Nelson, who hauled in a game-sealing 40-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline when the Bucs needed a key stop.
"I'm going to play the guys that are making plays," Lake said. "I'm not going to play the guys who are drafted higher. … That doesn't matter."
With Talib's availability Sunday uncertain, Lewis is competing against Gaitor and Mack, an undrafted free agent who signed with the Bucs in 2008.
Tampa Bay's cornerback situation could be in flux after the season, and Lewis is running out of time to make a positive impression.
Talib is scheduled to face trial in March on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Barber, who turns 37 in April, might decide to retire after an accomplished 15-year career.
BUCS AT JAGUARS
BUCS AT JAGUARS
Sunday: 1 p.m. TV: Fox, Ch. 13
Page 5: Bucs notebook