It took a couple extra days, but Nick Leverett's outstanding preseason has finally earned him a spot on a regular-season NFL roster.
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated Leverett from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and also placed outside linebacker Cam Gill on injured reserve to clear a spot. Originally an undrafted free agent out of Rice in 2020, Leverett spent almost all of last season on Tampa Bay's practice squad but took a big step forward this summer by showing impressive position flexibility.
Though he played tackle at Rice and North Carolina Central, the Buccaneers first tabbed Leverett as a guard when they signed him 20 months ago, but he spent much of his time on the practice squad filling in at tackle. When a rash of injuries struck the team's offensive line in the middle of training camp, Leverett again moved to left tackle and actually played all but six snaps at that position in the Bucs' preseason opener against Cincinnati.
After the same injury bug later thinned out the team's depth chart at center, Leverett moved to that spot for the first time in his entire football career and played every snap at that spot in the team's second preseason game. The Buccaneers believe he is capable of filling in at any of the five spots along the offensive line.
Leverett's activation puts the Bucs' O-Line numbers back at nine players, which is where they were after Tuesday's cutdown to 53 players. However, first-year man John Molchon was subsequently placed on injured reserve, briefly trimming that total to eight. Tampa Bay carried nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster for much of last season before the season-ending injury suffered by A.Q. Shipley.
Gill made the Buccaneers' regular-season roster last year as an undrafted free agent out of Wagner. He played sparingly on defense as the fourth man in the outside linebacker rotation but logged 227 snaps on special teams. He made his first career mark in the sack column on the NFL's biggest stage, combining with Ndamukong Suh for a sack of Patrick Mahomes in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl LV win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Gill was also credited with a forced fumble on the play.
Gill missed much of this year's training camp due to a calf injury. Because both he and Molchon were kept on the Bucs' initial 53-man roster, they are eligible for the short-term version of injured reserve. Just as in 2020, players can return from I.R. after missing as few as three weeks. Players placed on injured reserve prior to the cut to 53 can not play again for the same team that season.