RB Charlie Garner played in three games as a Buccaneer last fall before sustaining a season-ending knee injury
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reduced their roster from 91 players to 76 in order to meet the new NFL limit, which went into effect at 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Several of the Bucs' decisions went down to the wire, and the full list was not announced until after the deadline.
The Bucs released 16 players, including veteran running back Charlie Garner, who was released from PUP/failed physical. That was one more than was necessary at the beginning of the day, but an additional move had to be made after the team acquired former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Andrew Williams off waivers.
The 6-2, 280-pound Williams, a Tampa native, was a third-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2003 after a strong, two-year career at the University of Miami. He played in 10 games with three starts over the past two years in San Francisco, compiling 16 tackles despite missing the first nine games of last season with a broken leg. This summer, the 49ers attempted to convert Williams to linebacker in their new 3-4 defensive front, but the Buccaneers will use him at his natural position.
Williams was a 6A all-state performer at Hillsborough High School in Tampa.
Garner was by far the most prominent name on the Bucs' list, though it did not appear as if the 12th-year back figured prominently in the team's plans for 2005. Garner had not played or practiced since suffering a knee injury in the third game of the 2004 season, his first as a Buccaneer.
Ten of the 16 players released were rookies or first year players. The five who were not: Garner, guard Phil Bogle, defensive tackle Damian Gregory (waived/injured), wide receiver Derrick Lewis, defensive end Bryant McNeal and running back Ian Smart, both second-year players. All but Garner and Gregory, a fourth-year man, were second-year players.
Here is the full list of players removed from the active roster on Tuesday:
|QB Jared Allen||R||Got roster spot after post-draft rookie tryout|
|G Phil Bogle||2||Former Charger starter signed by Bucs on 8/16|
|G Doug Buckles||R||Undrafted rookie had appendectomy in camp|
|WR Chris Davis||1||Spent '04 on Giants' practice squad|
|DT Damian Gregory||4||4th-year DT injured shoulder in Miami|
|RB Charlie Garner||12||Played 10 seasons in PHI, SF and OAK|
|LB Byron Hardmon||1||Former Gator standout signed in spring|
|FB Steve Kriewald||R||Nebraska rookie signed during camp|
|WR Derrick Lewis||2||Spent one week on Bucs' active roster in '04|
|DT Lynn McGruder||R||Undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma|
|DE Bryant McNeal||2||4th-round pick by Denver in '03, joined Bucs last fall|
|LS Brian Sawyer||1||Returned to camp after D. Moore's broken finger|
|RB Ian Smart||2||Gained 26 yards on 2 carries last season|
|CB Ronyell Whitaker||1||Played in 4 gms. in '03; on practice squad in '04|
|T Sam Wilder||R||Bucs acquired in trade with Dallas at end of camp|
|WR Kevin Youngblood||1||Two stints on Bucs' practice squad in '04|
In many cases, the Bucs made cuts at positions where there was significant depth, such as running back, allowing the released player additional time to search for a job elsewhere. Though none of the cuts were officially announced until Tuesday, Head Coach Jon Gruden hinted at that kind of scenario with Smart.
"He's a good back; hopefully, he catches on with another team," said Gruden. "You can't deny the fact that number 33 [Earnest Graham] has looked very good here. We drafted Cadillac Williams; Michael Pittman's been a productive back here; Derek Watson's still in the mix. When you couple that with the fact that Mike Alstott's going to also play the tailback position, we thought it was good for Ian Smart to get an opportunity to look elsewhere. Hopefully someone else takes a look at him."
The actual NFL limit at this stage in the preseason is 65 players, but exemptions earned by NFL Europe players in the spring remain in effect until the cut-down to 53 men on Saturday. The Bucs have 11 such exemptions, so by keeping the players with those exemptions – e.g. Bryan Save, Terrance Metcalf – they can keep 76 players through the final preseason game. Of course, those 11 men are also still in the running for full-time jobs this fall.
"We're going to keep hanging onto our exemptions as long as possible," said Gruden. "They're here, they're young players who are developing and they'll continue to do that until we can't feasibly allow that to happen. Who knows? Some of these guys might make our team."
The exemptions will expire on Saturday, when the team trims 23 more men from the active roster to get to 53.
None of the decisions were easy. Many of the players who were waived on Tuesday have been working with the team for months; some joined the roster as early as January and have participated in workouts since March.
"It's difficult," said Gruden. "It's an emotional decision, and there have been some tough decisions. But that's understood when we embark on this, that we can only keep so many guys. Unfortunately, this is the time where we have to reduce our roster, and some players won't be able to continue.
"Hopefully some of these guys can catch on with other teams. Who knows, maybe at some point we'll bring them back, because there was a lot of time invested and they did learn their stuff."