TE Leonard Stephens has gone to several previous training camps with the Washington Redskins
Before Wednesday, Leonard Stephens hadn't taken an NFL practice snap in over a year. Nevertheless, he stepped right into the Wednesday afternoon workout at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' training camp and looked as if he had belonged.
The Buccaneers signed Stephens, a veteran tight end who has previously played for the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, after a Wednesday morning tryout. To make room for him on the roster, the Bucs released first-year wide receiver Leonard Stubbs.
Last summer, Stephens was released, with an injury settlement, by the Detroit Lions in the middle of training camp. He did not sign with another team that season or during the 2006 offseason, yet he clearly kept himself in good shape, an indication that he is still serious about pursuing an NFL career.
"I saw fresh legs, good quickness," said Buccaneers Tight Ends Coach Ron Middleton. "He's got some explosion. He seems to be a smart kid. He's hungry, I do know that. I'm looking forward to working with him."
The move gives the Bucs seven tight ends in camp, including two – Mark Anelli and Dave Moore – who are also listed as long-snappers. Meanwhile, the receivers group was pared to 11 players.
The 6-3, 258-pound Stephens is a quick and athletic tight end with good hands. A Howard product, he first entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 2000. He didn't make San Diego's roster as a rookie but was signed the following offseason by Detroit and allocated to the NFL Europe League, where he played for the Scottish Claymores.
In 2002, Stephens wound up with the Redskins and made the active roster, playing in five games and recording one catch for 13 yards. He went to camp again with the Redskins in 2003 but was released prior to the season, then signed again after the season and allocated once more to the NFLEL. This time he played for the Frankfurt Galaxy and had two catches for 22 yards before suffering an abdominal injury.
The 28-year-old Stephens played his high school football in New Jersey. He is only the second player the Bucs have signed since the start of training camp two weeks ago, which is an unusually low number of transactions. Last Saturday, the Bucs re-signed CB Dwight Ellick and released CB Reuben Houston.
Just like last year, the Buccaneers Radio Network is poised to bring you Tampa Bay football all week, not just on Sundays.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced the weekly schedule for the 2006 Official Buccaneer Player Radio Shows, featuring Head Coach Jon Gruden, cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Derrick Brooks, wide receiver Joey Galloway and linebacker Shelton Quarles, each on a different day of the week. Each week will be capped off by the Buccaneers Total Access show, which features a different player or coach as the guest each week.
All six shows, broadcast on flagship stations 103.5 WFUS and 620 WDAE, will debut the week leading up to the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens on September 10 and air throughout the season.
Here's the lineup:
- Monday at 5 p.m.: Head Coach Jon Gruden * Monday at 6 p.m.: Joey Galloway * Tuesday at 6 p.m.: Ronde Barber * Wednesday at 6 p.m.: Derrick Brooks * Thursday at 6 p.m.: Shelton Quarles * Friday at 6 p.m.: Buccaneers Total Access
Grad-uating to the Real Thing
As a result of Luke McCown's late-June injury, Jay Fiedler's continuing shoulder rehabilitation and his own impressive work, rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has gotten more reps through the first two weeks of training camp than he could have hoped for.
That's meant more of everything for Gradkowski: more throws, more things to keep straight in his spinning head, more shouted barbs from Gruden and, maybe, more of an opportunity in the end.
"Coach Gruden has given me a great opportunity out here and I'm just trying to take advantage of it," said Gradkowski. "Whatever the team and the coaches ask me to do I'm going to be ready to do. Just to be out here and getting this many reps is an honor and I'm going to work hard every day."
If the Bucs follow their usual substitution pattern for the preseason opener, Gradkowski could see a significant amount of playing time in the second half of Friday night's game against the New York Jets. Gruden has yet to announce any specific rotation plans at that or any other position, and may in fact keep much of that under his hat until game time in order to keep his players on their toes.
Gradkowski isn't worried about the rotation and he seems to be looking at Friday's game from a team perspective rather than from any personal motivation.
"We're excited," said the rookie. "We've been out here for a couple weeks now, going through two-a-days. So we're excited to put the pads on Friday night. Once the lights go on we're going to play hard and see what happens."