The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated veteran guard Earl Watford from the reserve/COVID-19 list but he will not take up a spot on the 53-man roster. Instead, Watford has been placed on injured reserve.
Watford was one of four players who landed on the COVID list in the week leading up to the Buccaneers' preseason finale in Houston. Two of the others, kicker Ryan Succop and guard Nick Leverett have also been activated and are on the 53-man roster. Defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh is the last player still on that list but Head Coach Bruce Arians said he expected to have all four players back by Monday.
Watford returned to the Buccaneers in mid-August after the team was hit by a string of injuries along the offensive line, and he played in the first two preseason games before ending up on the COVID list. He was also on the Buccaneers practice squad for Super Bowl LV in February.
Watford originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft pick by Arizona in 2014, when current Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians was at the Cardinals' helm. Watford played four seasons and started 21 games for Arians before heading to Cleveland for one season in 2018. After Arians came out of a one-year retirement to take over as the Buccaneers' Head Coach in 2019, Watford rejoined his former coach and ended up playing in 15 games with four starts.
Watford didn't re-sign with Tampa Bay in 2020 and was briefly on New England's practice squad in December, but he returned to the Buccaneers during the postseason, first on the active roster and then on the practice squad.
The Buccaneers now have four players on the injured reserve list: Watson, outside linebacker Cam Gill and guards Sadarius Hutcherson and John Molchon. All but Hutcherson are eligible to return to the active roster after a minimum of three weeks on I.R.