CB Torrie Cox returned to practice this week after missing the first four games of the season
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are wasting little time in getting Torrie Cox back into the mix on special teams.
Last year's NFC Pro Bowl alternate at the "special teams" position, Cox missed Tampa Bay's first four games of 2007 while serving a commissioner's suspension. He returned to practice this week and, on Saturday, was activated to the 53-man roster. In order to make room for Cox, the Bucs waived safety Donte Nicholson, who was just re-signed a week ago.
Cox is likely to be among the team's 45 active players on Sunday in Indianapolis, and if so he will make an instant impact on the team's already outstanding kick coverage units. The Bucs rank first in the NFL in opponent kickoff return average (15.3 yards per return) and second in average opponent kickoff drive start (21.5-yard line). Last year, Cox tied for the Buccaneers' team lead with 20 special teams tackles.
Cox could also help in the return game, though that too has been a plus for the Buccaneers through four games. The Bucs are averaging 23 yards per kickoff return and are sixth in the league in average starting field position (33.4-yard line). Cox has averaged 22.9 yards per runback on 75 career kickoff returns.
The 5-10, 192-pound Cox, a fifth-year player drafted in the sixth round in 2003, also has extensive experience as a nickel back in the Buccaneers' secondary. Though he might take a bit longer to work his way back into the defensive schemes, Cox has proven to be a playmaker in the past, with 35 tackles, one interception (returned 55 yards for a touchdown) and four passes defensed.
While serving his suspension, Cox was not allowed to train with the Buccaneers or spend any time at team headquarters. After the fourth game, he was able to return to One Buccaneer Place and immediately rejoin practice. However, the team was given a roster exemption on Cox that was good for up to a week, and thus could have waited to move him to the active list until after Sunday's game against the Colts. Obviously, the Bucs value his contributions in the kicking game.
Nicholson played in the Bucs' win at Carolina last Sunday after being re-signed a week ago. A fourth-round draft pick in 2005, he has been to each of Tampa Bay's last three training camps and has played in parts of each season. Overall, Nicholson has appeared in 10 games as a Buccaneer and recorded one pass defensed and nine special teams tackles.
The 3-1 Buccaneers play the 4-0 Colts on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. ET.