Andre Hastings jumped right into the action on Tuesday but will have a lot of questions over the next few weeks
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pushed their roster meter back to 'Full' and strengthened their receiving corps on Thursday by signing free agent WR Andre Hastings. Hastings, an eighth-year veteran with 266 career receptions, agreed to a one-year contract, once again giving the Bucs 88 players in training camp.
The roster spot used to sign Hastings was created last Friday with the release of WR Darnell McDonald. It was assumed that the vacancy would eventually be used to sign another receiver, but few may have expected the Tampa Bay to bring on a player as recognizable as Hastings. On the other hand, Hastings, who was not re-signed by the New Orleans Saints this offseason, was not surprised.
"This is going on eight years for me," he said. "It's part of the game. When you have an opportunity to pick and choose where you want to be, you have to wait and be real patient."
Now that his wait has ended, however, Hastings may be rather impatient to jump into the playbook. While his seven years in the league make him the most experienced receiver on the team, he is behind in terms of preparation in the Bucs' offense. He was still feeling his way during Thursday morning's practice, just hours after his arrival in Tampa.
"It's like they were talking German," said Hastings with a laugh. "No, it was alright. They've got a lot of terminology here. I hadn't really had a chance to look over it. I just got in about 10 last night, so I haven't had a chance to look over the playbook or anything. So it was a little foreign."
Hastings expects to get acclimated quickly, and he's confident in his ability to be more than a pair of 'camp legs'.
"I feel like my chances are good," he said. "I just got here. The guys here have been putting in work for a little bit longer than I have, but I feel like I'm a good player. I feel like I'm going to be a solid player and I'm going to be productive."
Hastings has indeed been productive throughout his NFL career, which started with four years in Pittsburgh (1993-96) before continuing in New Orleans the past three seasons. During that team, he has averaged 38 receptions per season, including a pace of 48 per year over the past five campaigns.
His top season came in 1996, when he paced the Steelers with 72 catches for 739 yards, ranking 11th in the AFC in receptions. His most productive year as a Saint was 1997, when he finished second on the team with 48 grabs for 772 yards and a career-best 15.0 yards per carry. He has also seen action as a punt returner, averaging 9.4 yards on 110 career returns with one touchdown. In 1995, he set an NFL playoff record, averaging 13.2 yards per punt return during the Steelers' run to Super Bowl XXX.
Even though he had been contacted by other teams, Hastings picked his third NFL stop in part because he would like another shot at a Super Bowl ring. In fact, the Buccaneers met all of his criteria.
"I was looking for a situation (that is) warm, on grass, a contender," said Hastings, "and all that's here."