TE Keith Heinrich has played in 18 regular-season NFL games in previous seasons with Cleveland and Carolina
Another Saturday, another roster move.
For the fourth week in a row, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have kicked off the weekend with a change to their 53-man roster. This week's day-before-the-game move, like most of them, was precipitated by injuries.
Upon arriving in Detroit on Saturday, the Bucs announced the signing of tight end Keith Heinrich to the active roster. Heinrich had spent the first six weeks of this season, and the majority of 2006, on Tampa Bay's practice squad.
To make room for Heinrich, the team released tackle Dennis Roland.
Heinrich's signing is an indication that injured tight end Alex Smith will not play on Sunday against the Lions. In fact, the team also made that official upon arriving in Detroit by announcing that Smith did not make the trip with the team. He will remain in Tampa and receive additional treatment on his sprained ankle.
Three other injured Bucs were left behind as well. Running back Michael Pittman (ankle), defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder) and cornerback Brian Kelly (groin) remained in Tampa; all four of those players will be among the team's inactives on Sunday.
A week ago, the team used Saturday to move running back Lionel Gates onto the active roster in place of rookie running back Kenneth Darby. Gates' signing, and the promotion of Darby earlier in the week, had been in response to injuries to Pittman and Cadillac Williams.
Prior to the Week Five game in Indianapolis, the Bucs activated cornerback Torrie Cox, who had previously been on a reserve list due to a commissioner's suspension. To make room for Cox, the team released safety Donte Nicholson.
Nicholson had been the player added on the previous Saturday, which was a reaction to the loss of Sabby Piscitelli, a rookie safety who had made his mark on special teams. Nicholson's signing prompted the release of wide receiver Chad Lucas.
Unlike many players promoted from the practice squad, Heinrich has had a reasonable amount of regular-season NFL experience, playing 18 games over the course of three different seasons in Carolina and Cleveland. He last appeared in a regular-season game with the Browns in 2004.
Originally a sixth-round pick out of Sam Houston State by the Panthers in 2002, Heinrich played made the team as a rookie and appeared in four games. He spent the last three months of that season on injured reserve, then went to Cleveland on waivers the following summer when he was cut at the end of the preseason.
In his first season with the Browns, Heinrich played in seven games and caught eight passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns. He played in seven more games for the Browns in 2004, adding one reception, but spent all of 2005 on Cleveland's injured reserve list. Heinrich signed with Miami in May of 2006 but spent all but two weeks of the '06 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad.
With Smith out, veteran Anthony Becht is likely to return to the starting spot he occupied for the Bucs for the past two seasons. Tight end Jerramy Stevens is likely to see increased playing time, too, but the team usually keeps three tight ends active on game day, so Heinrich could see his first regular-season action as a Buccaneer.