WR Marcus Knight, re-signed Wednesday, could give the Buccaneers another option in the return game
One game, two injuries and six roster moves.
That's the fallout from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' trip to Oakland, where the latest significant injuries were visited upon running back Charlie Garner and tight end Rickey Dudley. Both Garner, who tore the patellar tendon in his right knee, and Dudley, who fractured his right thumb, have been placed on injured reserve.
That set off a chain reaction of moves. Running back Michael Pittman, who finished serving his three-game suspension on Sunday, was removed from the accompanying reserve list and will take Garner's spot on the 53-man roster. Dudley's spot will be filled by wide receiver Marcus Knight, who spent the offseason and training camp with the Buccaneers but was released on the final cutdown day of September 5.
Knight will help a receiving corps and return game thinned by the Week One groin injury to Joey Galloway and Frank Murphy's recent hamstring strain. As for the tight end spot, the Bucs will go with the three remaining players on the roster, with Will Heller likely moving up from the game-day inactive list to join Ken Dilger and Dave Moore. However, to give the team added flexibility at that position on the practice field, the team re-signed tight end Nate Lawrie to the practice squad.
Lawrie was the Buccaneers' sixth-round draft choice this past April. He was waived on August 31 and subsequently spent two weeks on Philadelphia's practice squad before being released on September 21. To make room for Lawrie on the eight-man practice squad, the team released wide receiver Allen Suber, who originally joined the unit on September 7.
The Bucs also made a seventh, unrelated roster move on Wednesday, releasing guard Kerry Jenkins from injured reserve. Jenkins was placed on IR on September 5 due to a neck injury suffered in the preseason finale.
Pittman's return was expected, of course, though the team had hoped to pair him with Garner in the backfield, rather than simply have him as a replacement. Still, Pittman is the Bucs' leading rusher each of the last two seasons, with 718 yards in 2002 and 751 last year, and like Garner he is a gifted receiver out of the backfield. Last season, Pittman caught 75 passes for 597 yards and two touchdowns, leading all NFC running backs in receptions.
Knight (6-1, 195) played for Head Coach Jon Gruden in Oakland in 2000 and 2001, then had his most active season with the Raiders in 2002, after Gruden's departure for Tampa. His career statistics include just three receptions for 26 yards, but he has valuable experience as a return man. Knight has averaged 24.3 yard son 29 career kickoff returns.
Lawrie (6-7, 256) played in three preseason games for the Buccaneers this August though he did not have a reception. At Yale, he set the school's single-season receptions record for tight ends in 2003 with 72 and also handled the team's punting duties.
Prior to their injuries, Garner and Dudley were significant factors in the Bucs' offense. Garner was the team's rushing leader with 111 yards on 30 carries and also had nine catches for 62 yards. Dudley, always a big-play threat for a tight end, had 48 yards on his three receptions for an average of 16.0 yards per catch.
Pittman was activated in time to join the team on the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, and Knight is also on hand for the workout.