Rookie DT Dre Moore was waived on Saturday but rejoined the team as a practice squad player on Monday
Most are familiar faces, a few are intriguing newcomers. All are players at which the Tampa Bay Buccaneers want to take a longer look.
The Buccaneers revealed the first iteration of their 2008 practice squad on Monday. Though that crew will undoubtedly go through a series of changes during the season, it begins with eight players who have shown NFL promise plus a ninth who is assured of being around all year.
That ninth player is Russian safety Sergey Ivanov, who will occupy an extra spot created by the league's International Practice Squad Program. Ivanov will practice with the team but is not eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster at any time this year. Half of the league's 32 teams will carry an international practice squad player in 2008.
The regular eight-man practice squad includes six players who were with the Buccaneers throughout this summer's training camp: wide receiver Brian Clark, tight end Daniel Fells, cornerback Marcus Hamilton, defensive tackle Dre Moore, running back Clifton Smith and wide receiver Micheal Spurlock. The other two spots went to cornerback Brandon Sumrall, a rookie just cut by the Minnesota Vikings, and offensive lineman Julius Wilson, most recently of the St. Louis Rams.
Moore was the most notable non-veteran cut during Saturday's roster reduction to 53 players, as he was a fourth-round pick out of Maryland this past spring. With his return, the Bucs have retained, at least for now, all seven of their 2008 draft picks in some manner. Aqib Talib, Dexter Jackson, Jeremy Zuttah, Josh Johnson and Geno Hayes all remain on the active roster, while Moore stays on with the practice squad and seventh-round running back Cory Boyd is currently on injured reserve.
Three of the eight players on Monday's list also logged time on the Bucs' practice squad in 2007; Hamilton, in fact, spent all of last season on that unit. Clark and Spurlock both came to the Buccaneers first as practice squad players last year before getting promotions to the 53-man roster. Spurlock, of course, was active long enough to carve out a place in franchise history, as he recorded the first kickoff return for a touchdown in the Bucs' 33 seasons. Clark played in Tampa Bay's regular-season finale last year and also appeared in four games for the Denver Broncos, catching four passes for 23 yards.
Fells, a promising tight end prospect who first entered the league as an undrafted free agent with Atlanta in 2006, signed with the Buccaneers in January after one year on the Falcons' active roster and one year on the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. He caught two passes for 28 yards during the preseason. Smith, an undrafted rookie signee out of Fresno State this year, was an eye-opener during the preseason, with 53 rushing yards, a team-high 11 receptions and several impressive returns on punts and kickoffs.
With Hamilton remaining in the fold, the Bucs also still have eight of their 10 draft picks from 2007 around. Gaines Adams, Arron Sears, Sabby Piscitelli, Quincy Black, Tanard Jackson, Greg Peterson and Adam Hayward are all on the active roster; only seventh-rounders Chris Denman and Kenneth Darby, two of Saturday's cuts, are not on the team.
Of course, the practice squad has two distinct purposes. In addition to allowing teams to retain and develop interesting prospects, it also aids them in fielding a full team for midweek practices. Often, a practice squad's construction is guided partly by shortages on the active roster, whether created by injuries or tough roster decisions.
The two Buc newcomers, Sumrall and Wilson, likely appeal to the Bucs in both ways. The secondary was depleted by one man on Monday when the Bucs released cornerback Eugene Wilson in order to make room for the arrival of offensive lineman James Lee. And even though Lee helps shore up the Bucs' interior line in the current absence of injured guard Davin Joseph, the offensive tackle group had been reduced to three players after the Saturday cuts of Chris Clark and Dennis Roland.
The 5-10, 193-pound Sumrall was a first-team All-Conference USA performer at Southern Mississippi who signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in April. In four seasons at Southern Miss, three as a starter, he racked up 272 tackles, 12 interceptions, 16 passes defensed, four sacks, nine forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Sumrall helped the Golden Eagles to four bowl appearances during his collegiate career and was a first-team all-conference pick as both a junior and senior. Last fall, Sumrall led Southern Miss with six interceptions to go with 98 tackles.
Wilson (6-4, 327 pounds) is making a U-turn back to Florida after a relatively brief stay in St. Louis. The former Alabama-Birmingham standout actually began the 2008 offseason with the same team that brought him into the NFL in 2007, the Miami Dolphins, but was waived just before training camp and claimed by the Rams.
Originally an undrafted free agent in the spring of '07, Wilson spent the first 12 weeks of his rookie campaign on Miami's practice squad before getting a call-up to the 53-man roster in December. He was on the active roster but inactive for four games. At UAB, Wilson was a starter on the O-line for most of his three seasons with the team; as a junior and senior he started all 19 games in which he appeared at right tackle. As a junior, he started all 11 games and helped the Blazers rack up 434.6 yards of offense per game.
Wilson hails from nearby Bradenton, Florida, where he was a two-way lineman star at Southeast High School.