Former Florida LB Byron
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will "practice" for the first time in 2005 on Tuesday, and Byron Hardmon and Eli Ward will be paying especially close attention to the coaches' directions.
Hardmon, a linebacker from the University of Florida, and Ward, a safety from the University of Minnesota, are the newest players on the Bucs' 2005 roster, having signed with the team on Tuesday morning. Both will suit up for the first of 14 voluntary organized team activity (OTA) days, the closest thing the Bucs will get to a full practice before mini-camp.
The Bucs have made a series of additions to their defense over the past week, beginning with cornerback Juran Bolden last Tuesday. That was followed by the signing of linebacker Josh Buhl on Wednesday and defensive tackle Chris Hovan on Friday. Later on Friday afternoon, safety Dexter Jackson, an unrestricted free agent, returned to the Buccaneers, and on Monday the team added cornerback Roderick Babers.
Buccaneer fans may be familiar with the linebacker they called "Bam" at Florida. An instinctive and hard-working player, Hardmon (6-1, 232) led his team and ranked fifth in the nation in 2002 with 168 tackles in 13 games as a senior. He played middle linebacker during his senior season after starting nine of 11 games at strongside linebacker as a junior. In all, over 48 games with the Gators, Hardmon collected 258 tackles, nine stops for loss, three interceptions and three forced fumbles
The Miami Dolphins signed Hardmon as an undrafted free agent in 2003, but he spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Last spring, he joined the NFL Europe League as a free agent draftee and, after a strong season overseas, was signed by the Seattle Seahawks on June 18. Hardmon made it to the final cut last fall before being waived on September 6.
The 5-11, 200-pound Ward is a hard-hitting safety who was excellent in run support with the Gophers. Over 44 games, including starts at free safety in his last 33, Ward racked up 293 tackles (201 solo), one sack, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, five interceptions and 14 passes defensed.
He first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts last spring. Ward was released by the Colts on August 31 and later had a brief stay with the Houston Texans.
Tampa Bay will utilize three of its 14 OTA days this week, working out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Hardmon will wear jersey number 52 while Ward will wear number 49.