WR Mark Bradley caught 54 passes in 23 games as a Kansas City Chief
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers added a second wide receiver to the roster in as many days on Wednesday, claiming Mark Bradley off waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs just 24 hours after signing free agent Micheal Spurlock.
While Spurlock is best known for recording the first kickoff return for a touchdown in Buccaneer history late in the 2007, Bradley might be remembered by Tampa Bay fans for a play he recently executed against the Buccaneers.
In Week Nine of the 2008 season, the Bucs beat Kansas City, 30-27, in overtime despite falling behind 24-3 in the first half. Bradley had a hand in putting the visitors in that three-touchdown hole when he took a flip from running back Jamaal Charles on an apparent end-around and then pulled up and threw a perfect 37-yard touchdown pass to quarterback Tyler Thigpen.
Bradley also had four catches for 64 yards on that November afternoon, making it one of his better outings during almost two seasons in Kansas City. He joined the Chiefs in September of 2008 after being released early in his fourth season with the Chicago Bears and went on to appear in 23 games with 14 starts for Kansas City.
After posting 30 receptions for 380 yards and three touchdowns in 2008, Bradley played in 13 games this season, starting six, and added 24 receptions for 320 yards and two scores. He was released on Tuesday when the Chiefs re-signed wide receiver Quinten Lawrence.
Originally a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2005, the 6-1, 201-pound Bradley caught 18 passes for 230 yards in just seven games and four starts as a rookie. Over the next two seasons, he played in 25 more games and recorded 20 receptions for 353 yards and four scores. He was released by Chicago on September 28, days after playing in his last Bears game against the Buccaneers that featured another Tampa Bay stunning comeback and overtime win. Adding to the coincidence, Bradley was let go by the Bears in order to make room for cornerback Marcus Hamilton, whom the Buccaneers had released following that game in Chicago.
Bradley possesses an impressive 13.9-yard average on his 92 career receptions and has shown he can provide a legitimate deep threat with five touchdown grabs of 25 or more yards. A high school quarterback, Bradley can obviously throw the football as well, and he had a handful of kickoff returns as a rookie in Chicago.
At Oklahoma, Bradley caught 34 passes for 685 yards (20.1 avg.) and nine touchdowns and also averaged 25.4 yards on 19 kickoff returns over three seasons. He scored seven touchdowns on just 23 receptions as a senior, playing in 13 games with four starts. Bradley hails from Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Anderson spent most of the season on the Bucs' practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in Week 13. He appeared in the next three games, primarily on special teams, in part because fellow first-year cornerback Derrick Roberson has missed the last two outings with a groin injury. Roberson returned to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. (More injury information below.)
Because he has a handful of friends in the Bay area, the 813 area code that popped up on Spurlock's cell phone on Monday was not too surprising. However, it didn't pull any names out of his address book, so Spurlock answered the call blind.
He's glad he did.
On the other end was Buccaneers' Coordinator of Pro Scouting Doug Williams, who was delivering a message every free agent wants to hear: We've got an open roster spot with your name on it.
Would he like to come back to the team for which he made lasting history in 2007? Spurlock didn't hesitate with his answer.
"I pick up the phone and it's Doug Williams and I just bust out laughing," said the second-year wideout. "I said, 'What's up?' and he said, 'What do you think about coming and signing with the Bucs?' I said, 'What do I need to do?' Just to come back home – I always felt like this was home and me and my family loved it here. It's just fun to be back."
Spurlock had a good time in his first stint with the Buccaneers, an '07 season split between the practice squad and the active roster. After he was activated in November, he took over the Bucs' kick return job and, on a memorable afternoon in December, ran 90 yards for a score on a kickoff against Atlanta. It was the 1,865th kickoff return in Buc annals but the first to go the distance.
Spurlock started this season with the San Francisco 49ers but was released after the team signed rookie holdout Michael Crabtree. He spent some time with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL but is now back with the team for whom he's had his best moments as a pro. With Clifton Smith and Sammie Stroughter both on injured reserve, it appears likely that Spurlock will get a shot at at least part of the team's return duties. It may be a bit much to expect him to find a niche on offense in just the two weeks remaining in the season.
"We will see," said Spurlock. "Whatever the coaches want me to do, that's what I'll do. It's going to be a primary focus on special teams and then see where I fit in playing offense."
Spurlock played primarily quarterback and running back in college at Ole Miss, but he has been working on a conversion to wide receiver since signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2006. Spurlock played in one game as a rookie and had four catches for 31 yards, but has not added to those reception totals since.
"It's a steady process," said Spurlock. "Coming from playing quarterback into learning the [wide receiver] position, it's been a great process. Would I like it to go faster? Yeah, but I think it's a growing process and we've got two games to keep it going. Just take it from there, just take it a day at a time and a game at a time."
The Buccaneers' receiving corps may get yet another boost this week if starter Michael Clayton, who has missed the last three games due to a knee injury suffered in Atlanta in Week 12, can return to the lineup against New Orleans. He took the necessary first step on Wednesday, returning to practice in a limited fashion.
Both of the Bucs' usual starting wideouts were on the field but limited to open the Saints week, as Antonio Bryant continues to deal with his knee ailment. Bryant has played in five straight games since missing two, however, and has on occasion been rested early in the week to manage the injury.
Tight end John Gilmore, who missed the victory in Seattle with a head injury, was back on the field Wednesday but limited by illness. Safety Tanard Jackson did play in Seattle but didn't finish the game due to a knee injury. The fact that he was able to participate on Wednesday, even in a limited fashion, has to be seen as a good sign.
"It's minor, but Tanard kind of hit his [knee] in the game so he's banged up a little bit," said Morris. "We've just got to see where we are, let him progress through week, let him get through practice. He's a tough kid, so we'll see."
Running back Cadillac Williams and tight end Kellen Winslow were limited in practice, as well, but that has become a common Wednesday decision for Morris in the second half of the season. Neither player has missed a game this year.
The Saints' injury report was quite a bit longer and included 17 players who either skipped Wednesday's workout or were limited. About a dozen of those 17 players are listed as starters on New Orleans' depth chart, including linebacker Scott Shanle (concussion) and safety Darren Sharper (knee), neither of whom practiced Wednesday. Cornerback Randall Gay, who also has a concussion, has started roughly half of the Saints' games but was unavailable on Wednesday.
Among the players who were limited on Wednesday were four-fifths of the Saints' starting offensive line: tackles Jermon Bushrod (thumb) and Jon Stinchcomb (knee), center Jonathan Goodwin (ankle) and guard Jahri Evans (toe). Other major contributors on the list included Reggie Bush (hamstring), defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (knee), linebacker Scott Fujita (knee), cornerback Jabari Greer (groin), tight end Jeremy Shockey (toe) and linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee).