Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli, left, describes a drill to defensive lineman Ron Warner
The geese might be headed from Florida back up to Canada in the coming weeks, but football players are currently flying in the other direction.
That Canadian Football League players are using February to explore NFL possibilities is less a matter of migratory patterns and more a function of the two leagues' player movement agreement. On Thursday, March 1, which is coincidentally the last day before NFL free agency, CFL players under contract are no longer free to sign with an NFL club.
That left just two days for hopeful CFLers and interested teams to hook up. On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers used one of those days to grant tryouts to two players from the neighboring league to the North.
Actually, Tuesday's visitors had each played just one season in the CFL and were no strangers to the NFL. Both Albert Reese and Ron Warner, a pair of defensive linemen, headed up to the Canadian Football League last year after brief stints in the NFL.
Reese, 6-6, 285, played for the Edmonton Eskimos last year after two seasons in the NFL, most of it spent on San Francisco's practice squad. Warner, 6-2, 248, spent a year with the Edmonton Blue Bombers after two NFL seasons split between New Orleans, Washington and Chicago.
Reese originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers in 1996. Though he was waived at the end of his rookie training camp, Reese did land on San Francisco's practice squad and spent all of the '96 season in that role. He got another crack at the 49ers' roster in 1997 and wound up on the practice squad again to begin the season, but was signed to the 53-man active unit in early November. Reese appeared in five games for the 49ers and contributed three tackles. He then sat out the '98 season after being waived by San Francisco, signed with newly-formed Cleveland Browns for a crack at the roster in '99, and was later released at the end of the preseason.
Warner was drafted by New Orleans in the seventh round in 1998 after a knee injury sustained in the East-West Shrine Game caused his stock to fall. He was placed on New Orleans' Physically Unable to Perform list in August of '98 due to that injury, but was added to the active roster on November 4 and went on to play in the Saints' season finale without making a tackle. The following season, the Saints waived Warner in early September and he wound up on the Redskins' practice squad for much of the fall. He also had a brief stint on Chicago's practice squad near the end of December.
Reese and Warner took the Bucs' practice field at about 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and were run through a variety of drills by Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli. Pro personnel staffers Mark Dominik, Leman Boyd and Seth Turner were also on hand to help with instructions, log results and form opinions. Though the personnel men did not share their post-workout evaluations, they did concede that any movement on these players would have to be made very soon.
On February 7, the Buccaneers worked out four other CFL players: defensive backs Antonious Bonner and Winston October and quarterbacks Dave Dickenson and Henry Burris. Tampa Bay eventually signed Bonner, while Burris has since joined the Green Bay Packers.