G Dan Buenning was just hitting his stride after overcoming an ankle injury when he hurt his knee at Dallas
You’ll forgive Dan Buenning if he crosses Texas off his offseason travel itinerary.
Buenning, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting left guard, was officially placed on injured reserve on Monday. His season, which started off slow due to an ankle sprain suffered in Houston, ended prematurely on Thursday when he went down with a knee injury in Dallas.
The Bucs filled Buenning’s roster spot, and another one created by the move of defensive end Simeon Rice to injured reserve last week, with a pair of free agent signings on Monday. Safety Donte Nicholson, a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2005, returned to the team and center Nick Mihlhauser was lured away from the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.
Also, the Bucs made a switch on their practice squad, signing defensive tackle Darrell Campbell and releasing cornerback Carlos Hendricks.
In between Buenning’s two injuries, he appeared in nine games and started seven. The standout second-year player was forced to miss the season opener after turning his ankle against the Texans in the team’s preseason finale, but returned to start the next four contests in his customary spot. When it became clear that the injured ankle was still limiting his play, Buenning was lifted in favor of Sean Mahan for the next three games. Buenning returned to start the Bucs’ last three games against Carolina, Washington and Dallas and – perhaps not coincidentally – the team’s running attack finally started to pick up steam.
Buenning started all 17 games, including the postseason, as a rookie fourth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2005. Along with current rookie starters Jeremy Trueblood and Davin Joseph, he is part of a promising new line the Bucs are building from the ground up. Buenning’s 2006 season, however, is over.
Buenning becomes the fifth starter to land on injured reserve for the Buccaneers this season, joining quarterback Chris Simms, tackle Kenyatta Walker, cornerback Brian Kelly and defensive end Simeon Rice. Including long-snapper Andrew Economos and rookie tight end T.J. Williams, Tampa Bay has seven players on its I.R. list.
Nicholson (6-1, 216), a hard-hitting safety out of Oklahoma, made the Bucs’ active roster as a rookie and played in nine games, primarily on special teams. He contributed nine kick-coverage stops and, in his first appearance on defense, broke up a potential touchdown pass in the end zone against Atlanta on November 20. Nicholson went to training camp with the Buccaneers again this summer but was released on September 2 during the final cut-down before the regular-season.
At Oklahoma, Nicholson earned first-team All-Big 12 honors as a senior after posting 72 tackles, two sacks, one interception and six passes defensed from the strong safety position. He transferred to Oklahoma in 2003 after two years at Mount San Antonio Junior College and won the Big 12’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. Nicholson played his high school ball in Diamond Bar, California.
Mihlhauser (6-3, 305) joined the Chargers in May as a rookie free agent out of Washington State. He was also released on September 2 but was brought back to San Diego’s practice squad two days later. Mihlhauser spent the first 12 weeks of the season with that crew before the Bucs called; a player on a practice squad remains eligible to sign with any other team at any time as long as that signing is to the 53-man roster.
A three-year starter at Washington State, Mihlhauser earned second-team all-conference honors as a senior and honorable mention as a junior. He started every game for the Cougars in 2005 and helped the offense roll up 489.2 yards per game. Mihlhauser hails from Arroyo Grande, California.
Campbell (6-4, 295) went to training camp with the Cleveland Browns this year after spending all of the 2005 season on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. Prior to joining the NFL in 2004, he suffered a knee injury during a spring workout and was not selected in the draft. The Bears signed Campbell as a rookie free agent out of Notre Dame and put him on the non-football injury list for the season so that he could rehabilitate his knee.
At Notre Dame, Campbell started his last three seasons at defensive tackle after seeing time at defensive end as a freshman. In his 44 games (34 starts), he tallied 87 tackles and 11 sacks, including a career-best six sacks as a junior in 2002. He is from South Holland, Illinois.
Hendricks was originally signed to the Buccaneers’ practice squad on November 16.