DT Brad Culpepper was the most recognizable name on Monday's list of waivers
Nobody likes this day. Players, coaches, trainers, media…no one gains pleasure from the prospect of people losing jobs. It's the National Football League's day to cut down to 65 players, and that means a dozen Tampa Bay Buccaneers had to be released or otherwise cleared from the roster. Just in case it's not unpleasant enough, the team has to do the same with another 19 roster spots before next Sunday.
The NFL's deadline for reducing your roster to 65 players is actually Tuesday, August 22. However, since Monday was an off day for the team after Sunday's game in New England and Tuesday is an all-out practice day, the Buccaneers took care of their unpleasant task on Monday. The following 12 players were released:
DT Brad Culpepper C Eric DeGroh WR Tavarus Hogans DE Aaron Humphrey LB Antony Jordan DT Damonte McKenzie QB Scott Milanovich CB Terrance Parrish P John Shay LB Kinnon Tatum FB John Waerig WR Michael Williams
Of course, those looking for shock value probably stopped at the first name on the list. Culpepper has started the last 54 regular season games for Tampa Bay and leaves the team fourth on the club's all-time sack list with 33. He is a nine-year veteran who originally joined the team as a waiver claim from Minnesota in 1994.
"Brad has been a real good player for us for a number of years, and this was a very difficult decision," said Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy. "We wanted to do this now to give Brad every opportunity to hook on with another football team."
Culpepper's career statistics include 378 tackles, 33 sacks, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
The list above might also confuse some due to its brevity. The Bucs started the day with 84 players and finished with 72, not 65. That's because the team is allowed to maintain its eight NFL Europe roster exemptions until the final cut. In fact, the team kept just seven of those exemptions, waiving Milanovich. The seven players who remain with the team due to exemptions are DE Chartric Darby, TE Jason Freeman, LB Bobbie Howard, WR Daniel Jones, CB Deshone Mallard, LB Shawn Stuckey and RB Aaron Stecker.
Dungy has been through this first cutdown day five times as a head coach and has yet to find enjoyment in it.
"No, it really doesn't (get any easier)," he said. "It's the same year in and year out. You kind of get close to guys. Especially the way we do it now, you get guys that sign with you in February or March and they've been here all summer. They're playing and working hard and they've done everything you've asked. But it's part of the business, and probably a day that no coaches look forward to."
Of course, this isn't your normal firing situation, because the employees that were released on Monday are very talented at their jobs. That same fact may temper the disappointment for some; there could be other NFL jobs awaiting these players.
"These guys have done a great job," said Dungy. "They've worked hard and been productive. As the team gets better, you're letting go guys who are capable of playing in the NFL, and you're letting go some guys who would have been on your team, or possibly starting, four years ago. That makes it tougher, as well."
The Buccaneers also had to shape their first cut to fit around the injury situation. That's not an unusual consideration, but it changes from year to year in focus. This season, the Bucs were hit hardest at the safety position and also had some concern on the offensive line.
"Injuries do impact it a little bit," said Dungy of the first cutdown list. "You've got some guys that you know aren't going to play, but you still have to be able to finish out the week and practice and play the game. Sometimes you have to make adjustments that way.
"We're going to have Dexter Jackson and Shevin Smith that we know aren't going to be able to play week one, and maybe not for a little longer than that. So, again, your normal list of, 'Oh, we keep this many safeties, this many corners, this many offensive linemen'…you may not be able to go that way because of some of the injuries that you have."
The Buccaneers play their final preseason game on Friday in Raymond James Stadium, with 72 players on the roster. After that contest, the team will have to trim again to 53 for the regular season. That means Sunday is yet another day that brings no enjoyment to anyone.