RB Rabih Abdullah's injury will lead to the signing of Fred McAfee
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running backs deck got re-shuffled on Wednesday as the Bucs moved to replace backup Rabih Abdullah. With Abdullah moving to injured reserve on Wednesday morning, the Buccaneers signed former New Orleans and Pittsburgh RB Fred McAfee to fill his place. On Tuesday, McAfee agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Tampa Bay after an afternoon workout.
In his Monday press conference, Head Coach Tony Dungy indicated that Tampa Bay would prefer to sign a player in Abdullah's mold, an effective substitute runner who excels on special teams. The Bucs feel that McAfee is that type of player, and Special Teams Coach Joe Marciano is familiar with the tailback from their time together with the Saints from 1991-93.
"Fred has been a very productive special teams guy throughout his career," said Buccaneers General Manager Rich McKay on Tuesday. "He knows our special teams schemes through his time with Joe in New Orleans and he's a guy that we have liked for a number of years."
The Bucs also liked what they saw on Tuesday when McAfee was one of three back to engage in a workout at One Buccaneer Place. Described as a slashing-style runner, McAfee still possesses above-average speed to go with his veteran experience.
Though McAfee has not played in 1999, his '98 season in Pittsburgh bears out the Bucs' assessment. The 5-10, 197-pound Mississippi College product was a Steelers' special teams captain, recording 17 kick-coverage tackles while also adding 18 carries for 111 yards and nine receptions for 27 yards. In his career, McAfee has 1,144 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 294 carries (3.9 average) as well as 35 receptions for 211 yards. In four-and-half seasons with the Steelers, McAfee made 75 special teams tackles.
McAfee first entered the league as a sixth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 1991. After spending the first half of his rookie season on New Orleans' practice squad, he was elevated to the active roster and ended up leading the Saints in rushing. In nine games, he compiled 494 yards on 109 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per tote. Though his rushing load diminished in the next two seasons, he picked up work as a kickoff returner and also covered punts and kickoffs. He then signed as a free agent with Arizona before the 1994 season and spent half of that campaign with the Cardinals before moving on to Pittsburgh.
Abdullah injured his right thumb in Sunday's 29-10 victory over Green Bay, suffering a fracture-dislocation known as a 'Bennett's Fracture' while making the third of his team-leading three special teams tackles. He had played in the Bucs' first 15 games, primarily on special teams, starting one game (vs. Minnesota, 12/6) when Warrick Dunn sat out with an ankle injury. With Dunn and FB Mike Alstott splitting the carries, the Buccaneers' second-string tailback sees most of his work on special teams.
McAfee is expected to be on the field for Tampa Bay's Wednesday afternoon practice.