On Monday, wide receiver Louis Murphy hit the practice field for the first time in almost exactly a year. He may soon do the same on Sundays.
Murphy, who has been on the reserve/physically unable to perform list since the beginning of the 2016 season, has begun a 21-day window in which he can practice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without counting against the 53-man roster. At any time during that period, he can be activated and thus be eligible to play in games, beginning with Sunday's contest in San Francisco. By the end of that three-week period, Murphy must either be activated or moved to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
The Buccaneers also announced on Monday the signing of veteran running back Antone Smith, who played in five games with the Chicago Bears in 2015. To make room for Smith, the team released rookie running back Russell Hansbrough. Before taking the field on Monday morning, the Buccaneers also filled four vacancies on their 10-man practice squad by signing wide receivers Donteea Dye and Freddie Martino, safety Trae Elston and tight end Tevin Westbrook. All but Elston have previously played for the Buccaneers.
Murphy has not played since suffering a season-ending knee injury last October 25 in a game at Washington. He was on the active/PUP list during training camp before being moved to the reserve list, which meant he could not return to the field until six weeks had passed.
The 6-2, 200-pound wideout first signed with the Buccaneers in 2014. Over the next two seasons he played in 17 games and recorded 41 catches for 578 yards and two touchdowns. Originally a fourth-round draft pick by the Raiders in 2009, Murphy has also played for Oakland, Carolina and the New York Giants. His career totals include 88 games, 28 starts and 162 receptions for 2,322 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Smith spent his first five NFL seasons (2010-14) in Atlanta and thus has experience in Dirk Koetter's offensive system. Koetter, the Buccaneers' head coach, was the offensive coordinator for the Falcons from 2012-14. Smith has played in 64 NFL games and logged 30 carries for 297 yards and four touchdowns plus 15 receptions for 232 yards and another three scores.