It was just a matter of time before wide receiver Cyril Grayson was promoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' active roster. That bump up from the practice squad finally took place on Saturday along with a number of other moves, including the activation of guard Aaron Stinnie from injured reserve and the elevation of running back Kenjon Barner and tight end Darren Fells from the practice squad for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.
The Buccaneers had two open spots on their 53-man roster and thus didn't have to make any corresponding cuts. With Barner and Fells elevated, the team will have 55 players from which to choose 48 who will be active for Sunday's game. The team has already ruled out four players – running back Ronald Jones, outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, cornerback Rashard Robinson and wide receiver Justin Watson – and cornerback Richard Sherman is considered doubtful to play.
Grayson has emerged as a key figure in the Buccaneers' offense even before his promotion from the practice squad. He leads all Tampa Bay pass-catchers over the past two games with 162 yards on nine catches and it was his 33-yard touchdown grab with 15 seconds left last weekend that proved to be the game-winner in a 28-24 comeback victory against the New York Jets. Grayson also caught a 62-yard pass in the Bucs' Week 16 win at Carolina and has assumed some of the critical blocking work previously provided by Chris Godwin, who is on injured reserve.
The signing of Grayson gives the Bucs six healthy receivers for Sunday, as he joins Mike Evans, Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Jaelon Darden and Breshad Perriman. That looks to be the crew the Buccaneers will take into their postseason run, too, as Godwin's season is over and the team released Antonio Brown on Thursday.
Stinnie picked up the only start that any of Tampa Bay's five starting offensive linemen has missed this season, opening the Week 12 game at Indianapolis at left guard in place of Ali Marpet. However, Stinnie suffered a knee injury early in that game and was subsequently placed on injured reserve; he has missed the last five games.
Stinnie was the team's primary backup for the interior line positions before his injury and his return could end up being well-timed, as starting center Ryan Jensen is questionable for Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. The Buccaneers also have rookie Robert Hainsey and second-year man Nick Leverett as options for the guard and center spots.
Stinnie's start against the Colts was the first of his career in the regular season but he was pressed into service during the Bucs' Super Bowl run last year after right guard Alex Cappa suffered an ankle injury in the Wild Card game. Stinnie started the last three postseason games, including Super Bowl LV, and drew rave reviews from the Bucs' coaching staff.
Barner and Fells were both standard elevations, and this is the fourth straight game for which Barner was elevated, including two as COVID replacements. Barner has handled the Buccaneers kickoff and punt return duties for the past two games while rookie wideout Jaelon Darden was on the reserve/COVID-19 list. However, Darden is off that list and did not have a game-status designation on Friday's injury report, so he may be able to regain those jobs Sunday. Either way, the Buccaneers need Barner for backfield depth, as well, as their only other healthy running backs for Sunday's game are Ke'Shawn Vaughn and the recently-signed Le'Veon Bell.
Fells has been on the Buccaneers' practice squad since Week 10 and he was elevated and played in the game at Washington that week. The eighth-year veteran has also played for Arizona, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston and has 127 career receptions.