New Buc WR Marcus Knight returned eight kickoffs for the Raiders in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl XXXVII victory last January
It is generally not a good sign when your kickoff return man has eight runbacks in one game, and that was certainly the case for Marcus Knight and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII just over a year ago. Oakland's opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had numerous occasions to kick off during a 48-21 drubbing of the Raiders on Jan. 26, 2003, meaning Knight, who had eight returns for 143 yards, was one of the day's busiest and most productive Raiders.
Had the ball gotten into Knight's hands two more times, however, the Bucs' rout might not have been so severe.
Now Knight is a Buccaneer, having signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent on Wednesday. As is team policy, terms of the contract were not disclosed. The 6-1, 180-pound receiver out of Michigan played two seasons in Oakland (2001-02) but was not in the league in 2003. His last game, in fact, was the Super Bowl.
In that contest, Derrick Brooks and Dwight Smith each returned interceptions for touchdowns in the game's final 90 seconds. On both occasions, Rich Gannon's pass was intended for Knight.
Great anticipation by Brooks and a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage by Greg Spires, which led to Smith's second touchdown of the game, kept Knight from recording a reception in the game. However, Knight did excel in the return game throughout the 2002 playoffs, bringing back a total of 16 kickoffs for 347 yards, an average of 21.7 yards per return. During the 2002 regular season, Knight was the Raiders' deep man on kickoffs, returning 29 kickoffs for 705 yards, with a long of 65. His average of 24.3 yards per return ranked fifth in the AFC that year.
Knight, who originally joined the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2000, has three career receptions for 26 yards, all in 2002. He spent his entire rookie campaign on Oakland's practice squad but made the active roster in 2001 after a standout spring season in the NFL Europe League. Playing for the Amsterdam Admirals, Knight finished second in the NFLEL in both receptions (40) and receiving yards (546) and was the league's fifth-leading touchdown producer, with five.
Back with the Raiders in 2001, Knight played in five regular-season games and started one, playing primarily on special teams. He then played in all 16 games in 2002, making one additional start but mostly handling kickoff return duties. Knight went back to training camp with the Raiders in 2003 but was released prior to the regular season.
Like the players added by the Bucs two weeks ago – Del Cowsette, Frank Murphy, etc. – Knight is a 'reserve/future' signing. That is, even though the NFL's 2003 league season technically runs through February, these players are all signed to contracts that begin in 2004. This allows all teams, whether they're in the playoffs or not, to dip into the pool of available free agents at the same time over the winter.
The 25-year-old Knight is the fourth receiver the Bucs have added to their roster since the end of the season, including Fabian Davis, who was re-signed after his stint on the team's practice squad terminated. The other two additions were Murphy, who will be one of the six Bucs headed to the NFL Europe League this spring, and former Washington Redskin Justin Skaggs.
At Michigan, Knight caught 84 passes for 1,438 yards in four seasons, including 39 receptions for 794 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, good for second on the team. He was also second among all Wolverines with 42 catches for 603 yards and one touchdown as a junior. A native of Sylacauga, Alabama, Knight helped lead his Comer High School team to the state title game and also started on the baseball team for four years.