K Shane Andrus has extensive preseason experience with the Colts and was five of six on field goal tries this summer
Struggling to score points during an 0-4 start, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have elected to make a change at the highest-scoring position on the roster. On Monday, the Buccaneers announced the release of kicker Mike Nugent and the signing of Shane Andrus to take his place.
In other roster-related news, second-year cornerback Marcus Hamilton was released, opening up an additional spot on the 53-man roster. That spot may eventually be used to activate safety Tanard Jackson, who is returning this week from a four-game commissioner's suspension. However, Jackson currently carries an exemption and does not count against the roster until the team chooses to make him active.
Andrus has spent most of the past three years trying to crack the roster at Indianapolis, where the Colts have enjoyed the services of Pro Bowl kicker Adam Vinatieri during the regular season. Andrus was originally signed as a free agent in 2006 and went to camp with the Colts in each of the next three summers. He also kicked for the Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europa in spring of 2007, helping Hamburg to the World Bowl championship in the league's final year of existence. He played his college ball at Murray State.
Andrus played in one game for the Colts this season, handling kickoff duties in their season opener against Jacksonville. Andrus led Indianapolis with 19 points during the 2009 preseason, connecting on five of six field goal attempts and all four extra point tries.
Nugent was signed as an unrestricted free agent in March though the Buccaneers still had incumbent kicker Matt Bryant on the roster. The team envisioned a healthy competition between Nugent and Bryant in training camp and preseason games, but the competition never materialized as a leg injury kept Bryant out of the entire preseason.
Even without that battle, the Bucs felt confident going into the 2009 season with the former Jets kicker who had made 81.5% of his field goals while in New York while also becoming known for strong kickoffs. Nugent did display a strong leg on kickoffs, with six of his 12 reaching the end zone, two for touchbacks, but he made only two of his six field goal attempts during the first quarter of the season.
Nugent was 0-2 in his Buccaneers debut against Dallas on September 13, though his first attempt was blocked. After not trying a three-pointer against Buffalo or the New York Giants, Nugent got four attempts in Washington this past Sunday and made two of them. He hit the right upright on a 49-yard attempt in the first quarter, missed to right on a 48-yarder in the second quarter and slid a successful 37-yard field goal just inside that same post in the fourth period. Nugent also made a 22-yard try late in the fourth quarter that pulled the Bucs to within three points of the Redskins, 16-13.
This marks the second time in the last six seasons that the Buccaneers have made an in-season change at kicker not related to injury. In 2004, the Buccaneers cut former Pro Bowler Martin Gramatica 11 games into the campaign after Gramatica had struggled for the better part of two seasons. Former Arena League kicker Jay Taylor finished the season for the Buccaneers, who signed Bryant the following season.
Jackson was not allowed to practice with the Buccaneers during his four-game suspension, but he can return to the field this week. A fourth-round pick in 2007, Jackson had started all 32 games at free safety during his first two seasons in the league. On Monday, Head Coach Raheem Morris said the team would use this week to evaluate whether Jackson would start this coming Sunday at Philadelphia and how large of a role he would play.
Will Allen has started the last two games at free safety. Jermaine Phillips opened the season in that position but landed on injured reserve after suffering a fractured thumb at Buffalo in Week Two.
"I haven't seen Tanard in four weeks," said Morris. "We have to get him back in the building, let him practice. To be fair to Will Allen, to be fair to Sabby [Piscitelli], to be fair to Tanard, you have to find out where Tanard is, what he can do and what he can't do."
"You don't want to put too much on a guy that hasn't been here for four weeks as a part of your team. I'm sure he is eager to get back here. I'm eager to see him and his teammates are eager to see him. He made a mistake and he is paying for it. Hopefully he can come back and help this football team win some football games."
Hamilton signed with the Buccaneers on September 23 and has since appeared in one game and been inactive for another. He originally entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick of the Buccaneers in 2007 but spent most of the 2008 campaign with the Chicago Bears.