When Nathan Overbay was signed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice squad on October 26, he had reason to believe it would lead to bigger things.
After all, several other players had graduated from that unit to the Buccaneers' active roster before he arrived, and he watched several more get the call in the weeks that followed. In all, 11 players who spent time on Tampa Bay's practice squad had ended up on the active roster through the 15th week of the season.
On Monday, Overbay made it a full dozen. The Buccaneers signed the rookie tight end to their 53-man roster to begin Week 16, releasing center Dominic Raiola in order to open up a spot. The move increased the number of tight ends on the active roster to four, as Overbay joined Kellen Winslow, John Gilmore and Ryan Purvis on that crew. Purvis, too, was signed off the practice squad earlier in the season.
The Buccaneers have also not been afraid to rely on NFL newcomers in 2010. Overbay's promotion increases the number of rookies on the 53-man roster to 17, and another four (Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Cody Grimm and Brandon Gilbeaux) are now on injured reserve. On Sunday, the Buccaneers became the first team since Tennessee in 2004 to give at least one start to 10 different rookies during a single season.
Overbay first entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Denver Broncos in April. He spent the preseason with the Broncos before being waived on the final roster cutdown. Overbay spent the first week of the season on Denver's practice squad but was then released and later signed by the Buccaneers.
The 6-5, 270-pound Overbay set a career record for tight ends at Eastern Washington with 19 touchdown receptions. He appeared in 43 games for the Eagles and caught 93 passes for 1,189 yards and those 19 scores. As a senior, he earned all-conference first-team honors on the strength of 51 receptions for 588 yards and 13 touchdowns. Overbay is a nephew of Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay.
Raiola, a first-year lineman out of Wisconsin, originally signed with the Buccaneers in June and attended the team's training camp, appearing in all four preseason games with one start. He was released on September 4, then returned to the team on December 7. He made his first NFL regular-season appearance on Sunday against Detroit as a reserve lineman.