TE Todd Yoder (white jersey) will have to wait to make his regular-season NFL debut
Now that the NFL has swung into its regular season, the weekend's games have an added ritual: the inactive lists.
Each team was required to reduce its roster to a maximum of 53 players by last Sunday. However, only 45 of those players may participate in each game, 46 if a third quarterback is designated and then used. That means eight players have to be declared inactive and ineligible for the game; for a Sunday game, four of those inactives are named on Friday and four more are tabbed 90 minutes before kickoff.
And so the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got down to regular-season business on Friday, naming their first four inactives for Sunday's game in Foxboro, Massachusetts. These four Bucs will not play against New England: T DeMarcus Curry, S Dexter Jackson, RB Aaron Stecker and TE Todd Yoder.
By midseason, these Friday inactive lists are usually filled by injured players who would not have suited up for Sunday's game anyway. However, only one of the above, Jackson is on that list for injury reasons. Jackson has progressed rapidly from a severe ankle sprain suffered on August 10, but his earliest possible return date is the September 10 game against Chicago.
That means the remainder of the list helps to clarify some of the personnel moves you will see on Sunday.
For instance, Stecker's inclusion ends the speculation that the first-year RB will handle kickoff return duties this week. Stecker was stellar in that area during the preseason, but the Bucs did not foresee him playing a big role elsewhere on Sunday and elected to keep RB Rabih Abdullah active instead.
Coach Dungy announced on Friday afternoon that WR Karl Williams will handle the team's kickoff return duties in New England. In 1996, Williams set a Buccaneer single-season record by averaging 27.4 yards on 14 kickoff returns.
By putting T DeMarcus Curry on the inactive list, the Bucs also showed great faith in tackles Pete Pierson and George Hegamin. Pierson has become the permanent left tackle in the absence of Paul Gruber and Jason Odom, and Hegamin has shown the ability to excel at either right or left tackle. By putting Curry down for the weekend, the Bucs will rely on Hegamin to fill in for either Pierson or Wunsch should the team encounter an injury at that position.
Yoder, a rookie who made the team with an outstanding training camp, will not play this week as Blake Spence will fill the role of third tight end. Spence will come in for two-tight end sets when Patrick Hape is playing fullback.
Of course, while these decisions may have been difficult, they do underscore the fact that the team is relatively healthy heading into the 2000 season. "Dexter Jackson's really the only guy that should miss because of an injury," confirmed Dungy. "Everybody else should be ready to go."