Perhaps looking to provide more lead-blocking options for Pro Bowl tailback Doug Martin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed sixth-year fullback Spencer Larsen on Tuesday. To make room for Larsen on the 53-man roster, the team waived rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Larsen first joined the Buccaneers in July on the third day of the team's training camp. He started the team's preseason opener against Baltimore on September 8 but then did not see action in the next two games due to a minor injury. Larsen was waived on August 26 during Tampa Bay's roster cutdown to 75 players. Before arriving in Tampa, Larsen has spent four seasons with the Denver Broncos (2008-11) and one on injured reserve with the New England Patriots (2012).
In Tampa Bay's season-opening 18-17 loss to the New York Jets, Martin carried 24 times for 65 yards and a touchdown and often was met with resistance right at the line of scrimmage. The Buccaneers played that game without three strong blockers: starting left guard Carl Nicks (foot), starting fullback Erik Lorig (calf) and tight end Tom Crabtree (ankle). Fourth-year tight end Nate Byham started the game at fullback and was used on occasion as Martin's lead blocker in two-back sets. Reserve running back Brian Leonard also saw some action as a lead blocker against the Jets.
While the Buccaneers appreciate the versatility of such bigger tailbacks as Leonard and Peyton Hillis, the release of Larsen in August left the team with Lorig as the only true fullback on the depth chart. Lorig missed the entire preseason and the season opener with his calf injury, though he did return to practice in a limited fashion last week.
The Buccaneers certainly won't be abandoning their collection of two-back running plays, no matter who is joining Martin in the backfield. Last year, as previously noted here on Buccaneers.com, the Buccaneers were significantly more successful with running plays launched out of two-back sets than one-back sets.
The 6-2, 245-pound Larsen originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Broncos in 2008. He made an interesting bit of history as a rookie, starting a game against the Atlanta Falcons at both fullback and middle linebacker. That made Larsen the first Bronco ever to start on both sides of the ball and the first NFL player since Orlando Brown in 2003 to pull off that feat.
Larsen, who primarily played linebacker in college at Arizona, was a reserve at both spots in 2009 before concentrating on fullback for the next two years. His career NFL totals include 17 carries for 62 yards and 14 receptions for another 127 yards, as well as 38 tackles on defense.