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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mining the CFL

The Bucs sign defensive back Antonious Bonner, turning to the Canadian Football League for a potential roster candidate


New Buccaneer Antonious Bonner (right) breaks up a pass during a game with his CFL team of the last four years, the Toronto Argonauts

In terms of eventual NFL success, the legends of the Canadian Football League are mostly quarterbacks: Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Jeff Garcia.

Antonious Bonner, however, would be well served to follow in the footsteps of a former CFL linebacker: Shelton Quarles.

On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of Bonner, a five-year CFL veteran who had been one of four players from that league to attend a tryout at One Buccaneer Place on February 7. To this point, Bonner, who agreed to a one-year deal, is the only one of the four to be offered a contract by Tampa Bay; the others were quarterbacks Dave Dickenson and Henry Burris and defensive back Winston October.

Like Bonner, Quarles was signed by the Buccaneers after performing well in the CFL. Though he came to the Bucs' 1997 training camp as a virtual unknown, Quarles made the 53-man roster thanks to his prowess on special teams, where he quickly became the Bucs' most productive player. By 1999, Quarles had taken over the team's starting strongside linebacker spot.

If Bonner (6-1, 200) is to make the Bucs' final roster in 2001, he may need to follow a similar path of special teams productivity. After his tryout confirmed the team's opinion of his raw athleticism, Bonner was believed to be a good developmental candidate.

"He has great size for a cornerback-slash-safety, and we like his toughness," said Mark Dominik, the Bucs' Coordinator of Pro Personnel. "We think he has a chance to continue to ascend at defensive back while performing well on special teams."

Bonner has played five seasons in the Canadian Football League, including the last four with the Toronto Argonauts. He came directly to the CFL from college in 1995, joining the Ottawa Rough Riders after two years at the University of Mississippi. Bonner did not play in 1996 but did make the Argonauts roster in '97 and was a starter by '98.

Bonner's career CFL statistics include 186 tackles, 14 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries, five passes knocked down and three sacks. In 2000, he led the Argonauts with four interceptions and added 33 tackles, two fumble recoveries and three stops on special teams.

Bonner will wear jersey number 23 with the Buccaneers. He joins a defensive back crew that currently totals 11 players, though four could become free agents on March 2 (unrestricted free agents Ronde Barber, Damien Robinson and Floyd Young and restricted free agent Brian Kelly).

Before heading to the University of Mississippi, Bonner played two years at Mississippi Delta Community College. He is a native of Greenwood, Mississippi.

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