RB Rabih Abdullah helped secure a roster spot with his special teams play in 1999 and hopes to do so again in 2000
The rookies are getting some final instructions. The training staff is boxing up its braces and ice bags. The public relations department is setting up the press room. Last-minute preparations for training camp, which opens on Sunday, are going on all over the team's One Buccaneer Place headquarters.
That includes the football nerve center, the player personnel department, which is finalizing the roster for training camp. On Wednesday, that process neared completion with the signings of RB Rabih Abdullah, the team's last 'exclusive rights' free agent, and WR Daniel Jones, who will fill the Bucs' eighth and final NFLEL roster exemption. That means the Bucs will report to camp with its maximum allowance of 88 players (including eight NFLEL exemptions) as long as second-round G Cosey Coleman is signed on or by Sunday.
As a veteran of two NFL seasons, Abdullah became an exclusive rights free agent in February when his original contract expired, meaning he was free to negotiate only with the Buccaneers. The former Lehigh standout originally made Tampa Bay's roster in 1998 but was inactive for each of the team's 16 games that season.
Last year, Abdullah was elevated to the role of primary backup behind starting running back Warrick Dunn and was active for the first 15 games before breaking his right thumb against Green Bay on December 26. Abdullah missed the team's season finale in Chicago and its deep foray into the NFC playoffs, but did contribute five carries for 12 yards, two receptions for 11 yards and 16 special teams tackles before his injury.
In a running backs analysis recently posted on Buccaneers.com, Running Backs Coach Tony Nathan indicated that Abdullah is in contention for that same role in 2000 and is a talented runner. "He looks outstanding running the ball," said Nathan. "If he wasn't here, I think he could actually start for somebody else. I really do believe that."
Buccaneer fans are less familiar with Jones unless they followed the NFL Europe League's 2000 season. Jones, who originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the St. Louis Rams last year, spent time this spring and summer with both the Rhein Fire and the Barcelona Dragons of the NFLEL. With Rhein, Jones caught 12 passes for 157 yards and one touchdown.
Jones signed with the Rams after earning first-team all-conference honors at Utah and compiling two-year totals of 98 receptions for 1,435 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a native of Blythe, California and will wear jersey number 11 in the Bucs' camp.