Rudy Carpenter is back where he spent half of the 2009 season and all of 2010: On the Tampa Bay Buccaneers active roster.
The Buccaneers promoted Carpenter from their own practice squad on Saturday, one day before the team was due to take on the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. To make room for the third-year quarterback on the 53-man roster, Tampa Bay released linebacker Zac Diles.
The impetus for Saturday's move is obvious. With the ongoing uncertainty regarding the status of Josh Freeman for Sunday's game, the Bucs needed to add depth to the quarterback position. If Freeman is unable to play against the Panthers, Josh Johnson would get the start and Carpenter would become the primary backup.
Freeman has been working this week to overcome a right shoulder injury suffered on the final offensive play of last Sunday's game in Tennessee. He threw only sparingly on Thursday and Friday, but Head Coach Raheem Morris said there was still time for him to improve enough to gain clearance to play on Saturday and Sunday. If he misses the contest, it will snap a 36-game run of consecutive starts for the third-year quarterback, the longest streak by a Buccaneer passer since Trent Dilfer started 70 straight games from 1995-99.
Though they still hope Freeman will be available to play on Sunday, the Bucs are fortunate to have another passer on hand who is very familiar with their offensive system. Carpenter first joined the Buccaneers as a rookie in 2009; Tampa Bay signed the Arizona State product to its active roster directly off the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad. Carpenter had entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Dallas earlier that year.
Carpenter made the Bucs' roster again in 2010 and served as the inactive third quarterback for all 16 games. However, the new collective bargaining agreement did away with that inactive third QB option – now every team simply gets 46 active spots on game day – and that prompted many teams to carry only two quarterback on the 53-man roster. That was the case with the Buccaneers, who instead signed Carpenter to the practice squad, where he spent the first 12 weeks of the season.
Practically, that made no difference in Carpenter's week-to-week preparations. He has still worked alongside Freeman and Johnson in implementing the game plan each week, and he has received a significant amount of practice time running the scout-team offense. Carpenter also saw significant time in the Bucs' offense during the preseason, playing in all four games and compiling a passer rating of 104.1. He completed 24 of 42 passes (57.1%) for 388 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in those four outings, highlighted by a 96-yard scoring pass to Ed Gant.
Carpenter signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent following a long and prolific career at Arizona State. Beginning with the last five games of his redshirt freshman season, Carpenter started an FBS record 43 consecutive games and finished as one of the top 10 quarterbacks in Pac-10 history in terms of yards, touchdowns and total offense.
In his four seasons at ASU, Carpenter completed 799 of 1,309 passes (61.0%) for 10,491 yards and 81 touchdowns. As a senior, he completed 213 of 351 passes for 2,493 yards and 16 touchdowns, and as a junior he threw for 3.202 yards and 25 scores in leading ASU to a 10-2 regular-season record and a date with Texas in the Holiday Bowl. The 6-2, 212-pound Carpenter hails from Westlake, California.
Diles joined the Bucs as a waiver claim from St. Louis just prior to the start of the regular season. He saw action in seven of the first 11 games of the season as a special teams contributor, recording one kick-coverage stop.