Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Sign Ken Blackman

With T Jason Odom moving to injured reserve, the Bucs shore up the offensive line with former Cincinnati guard

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The Bucs' have needed their offensive line depth in recent weeks, prompting the signing of Ken Blackman

On Tuesday, fourth-year T Jason Odom underwent surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back. After the successful treatment, Odom was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday. Taking his place on the active roster will be fourth-year veteran Ken Blackman, signed Wednesday by the Buccaneers to a two-year contract.

The signing marks the second free agent offensive lineman picked up by the Bucs in the last three weeks. Former Philadelphia tackle George Hegamin was signed on November 10 and is now the Bucs' primary backup at right tackle to Jerry Wunsch, who has taken over Odom's starting spot.

Though Blackman has not played yet in 1999, the Buccaneers are very pleased with the roster addition. General Manager Rich McKay says that the team has been high on Blackman for quite some time.

"We liked him coming out of Illinois," said McKay of the Bengals' 1996 third-round draft choice. "He was a left tackle in college who we were convinced would be a starting guard in the National Football League. He went to Cincinnati and started him from day one. He was very productive for them before the injury."

The injury McKay refers to occurred against Denver on November 1 last season, when Blackman sustained a left knee sprain in the fourth quarter of the Bengals eighth game of the season. In the off-season, Blackman underwent two surgeries on the knee, including a cartilage graft. He was cleared to return to action this season by the Cincinnati medical staff but could not agree on a contract extension with the team and was thus released before the regular season.

McKay notes that Blackman has been a starter in the NFL for three seasons when not injured. The former Fighting Illini standout has started at right guard 31 of the 35 games he has played, missing eight games last season, three in 1997 and two in his rookie campaign.

"He has been rehabbing and working out, and he passed our physicals," said McKay. "It may take him awhile to get back in condition, because he he's been keeping in shape but he hasn't been playing football."

Blackman has been inserted into the depth chart at left guard as starter Jorge Diaz' backup. Second-year player Todd Washington is considered the Bucs' primary backup to right guard starter Frank Middleton.

Odom is the third Buccaneer to land on injured reserve this season, following long-snapper Mitch Palmer, who was placed on the list on October 5 due to a sprained right knee, and safety Eric Vance, who suffered a season-ending knee injury at New Orleans on November 7 and was placed on IR three days later.

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