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Practice Squad Takes Shape

The Bucs formed most of their eight-man practice squad on Monday, relying on players who had performed well in Tampa Bay’s training camp and preseason this summer


RB Derek Watson, like the rest of the seven players added to the practice squad Monday, was with the Bucs throughout the preseason

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers pared their roster down to 53 players on Saturday, but on Monday they practiced with 61 men.

The reinforcements come courtesy of the practice squad, which the Bucs formed on Monday. Actually, the team filled seven of its eight available spots; expect the last one to be occupied within the next day or two.

All seven men signed to the practice squad were players released by the team on Saturday. They are: linebacker Matt Grootegoed, center Scott Jackson, cornerback James Patrick, safety Kalvin Pearson, wide receiver DeAndrew Rubin, running back Derek Watson and defensive end Andrew Williams.

"We feel like the guys we had did a good job competing," said Gruden of the returning Bucs. "Some of those guys were close calls and we're happy to have them back."

The practice squad will also include NFL Europe national player Claudius Osei, a safety. Osei will not count against the eight-man practice squad limit and may remain with the team for the entire season; however, he is not eligible to be signed to the active roster at any point.

For the rest of the players on the practice squad, it is that eventual promotion to the 53-man roster that stands as the possible reward for performing on the practice squad. The team shares that hope of developing future contributors for the regular season, but also gets the benefit of a more complete rotation of players for the practice field.

That is also why this should be seen as just the first iteration of the 2005 practice squad. It is a virtual certainty that most of the spots on that eight-man unit will change hands before the season is through. Last year, only two players spent the entire season on the Bucs' practice squad: Jackson and cornerback Ronyell Whitaker. Rubin was on the squad for 15 of the 17 weeks. Not coincidentally, Jackson and Rubin are back this year as the Bucs remain optimistic about those players' futures after they both had strong training camps.

Three players who spent time on the Bucs' practice squad last year are now on the 2005 active roster: running back Earnest Graham, defensive tackle Jon Bradley and tight end Nate Lawrie. All three actually earned promotions last year, though Bradley went back to the practice squad for the last month of the season. Other current Bucs who were one-time practice squad contributors in Tampa include Anthony Davis, the new starter at left tackle, as well as wide receiver Edell Shepherd and cornerback Blue Adams.

Practice squad players can be signed to the active roster at any time – not just by their own teams but by any team in the league. Thus, players can participate on a practice squad and improve their skills while still maintaining the advantages of free agency. During his rookie season in 2003, Adams was signed off the Bucs' practice squad by the Jacksonville Jaguars in early October. He appeared in eight games for the Jags; that, another camp with Jacksonville and a stint in NFL Europe this past spring prepared Adams for a strong showing with the Bucs this summer.

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