RB Derek Watson originally entered the NFL with the Patriots in 2003
All they needed was an opportunity.
As of Monday, Carlos Campbell, Kevin Fischer, James Patrick and Derek Watson were full-fledged members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster. Four of the 20 players who spent the weekend in the Bucs' rookie and first-year mini-camp on tryout contracts, they impressed enough to earn full contracts and a ticket to the team's training camp this summer.
Campbell and Patrick, a pair of cornerbacks, and Fischer, an offensive lineman, are rookies who were passed up during the NFL Draft and the subsequent undrafted free agent signing spree. Watson, a running back originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots in 2003.
The Buccaneers' weekend camp was a mix of the contract players and the rookies recently added to the roster through the draft and free agency. Head Coach Jon Gruden said at the conclusion of the final practice on Sunday that it was the most talented rookie camp he had seen in some time. That statement was backed up by Monday's signings. Last year, only one player made it to the 80-man roster after trying out – offensive lineman Mark Moroz – and he was released before training camp.
The Bucs did not have to release any players to make room for the four new signees.
Campbell, who played in 43 games with five starts at the University of Notre Dame, saw action at wide receiver during his first two years before moving to cornerback for his last two seasons. The 5-11, 195-pound player finished his collegiate career with 37 tackles. He hails from Hampton, Virginia.
The Buccaneers had three tryout players in their rookie camp from the Florida Atlanta University program, which just began play in 2001. Fischer was part of the FAU's initial class, and he is one of only nine players to have appeared in every game of the program's history. After playing mostly on special teams as a freshman, he moved into the starting lineup in 2002 and stayed there for three years. Primarily a left guard in college, the 6-4, 260-pound Fischer will be tried at tackle by the Buccaneers. A native of Boca Raton, Florida, Fischer played tight end and defensive line in high school.
The 5-11, 175-pound Patrick was an extremely productive player at Stillman College, a school of 1,200 students located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. With a remarkable 27 career interceptions, he is the school's all-time leader in that category. Patrick also tied an NCAA single-game record with five picks against Edward Waters College in 2002. Last season, he contributed 25 tackles, including seven for loss, led the team with six interceptions and added eight passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick. He hails from Tuskegee, Alabama.
Watson rushed for 2,374 yards and 19 touchdowns during his collegiate career at the University of South Carolina (1999-01) and South Carolina State (2002). He also caught 64 passes for 545 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-0, 223-pound back is a native of Williamson, South Carolina.
Like the Buccaneers' draft picks, Campbell, Fischer and Patrick will have to wait for their respective colleges to finish the school year before reporting back to the team. The Bucs expect most of the rookies to be cleared by the middle of May.