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The Bucs promote rookie Leon Hires to the active roster, addressing a shortage on the interior offensive line


Rookie Leon Hires, signed on Saturday, gives the Bucs much-needed depth on the interior offensive line

Former Florida standout Leon Hires is the second undrafted rookie to make the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2001 active roster, joining Carson-Newman linebacker Marq Cerqua. Hires just had to wait five more days to join his rookie teammate.

On Saturday afternoon, the Bucs added Hires to the active roster, plucking him off their own practice squad. Hires signed a one-year deal, details of which were not disclosed.

The move was necessitated by injuries to starting center Jeff Christy (knee) and backup guard Russ Hochstein (foot), two ailments that left the team lacking in depth at the interior offensive line positions. Hires is now eligible to play in the team's season opener at Dallas if he is not one of the eight players deactivated before the game.

During practice, Hires has played primarily at center. That experience, coupled with veteran Todd Washington's ability to swing between guard and center, allows the Bucs to cover their bases at all three interior line positions.

Washington is currently starting in place of Christy. If Washington were to be knocked out of the game, Hires would simply take his spot at center. If either right guard Cosey Coleman or left guard Randall McDaniel were to go down, the Bucs would probably slide Washington into the open guard spot and put Hires at center.

Hires was originally signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent on April 23. He appeared in all four preseason games in August but was waived on the final cut down to 53 players on September 2. A day later, he was signed to the Bucs' practice squad.

To make room for Hires on the 53-man roster, the team released DE Ron Warner. Warner joined the team this offseason as a free agent after a stint in the Canadian Football League. He originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 1998.

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