DT Darrell Russell, released on Tuesday, originally signed with the Buccaneers on March 30
With training camp less than three weeks away, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have begun the process of reducing their roster to meet NFL camp limits.
On Tuesday, the team trimmed two players from the ranks, releasing veteran defensive tackle Darrell Russell and waiving third-year offensive tackle Chris Ziemann from NFL Europe's injured reserve list.
Both Russell and Ziemann signed with the Buccaneers after the 2003 season, Russell on March 30 and Ziemann on February 13. Ziemann was subsequently allocated to NFL Europe, where he played the spring season for the Rhein Fire.
Because he was injured while playing in the NFLEL, Ziemann was put on the league's injured reserve list after his return to the states this summer. The Buccaneers retained the roster exemption that Ziemann earned and assigned it temporarily to safety Will Hunter, who was signed a week ago. When Ziemann recovered from his injury and was due to reassume his exemption, the Buccaneers elected to waive Ziemann from the reserve list and leave the exemption on Hunter.
Ziemann played eight games with the New York Giants in 2000. He most recently spent the 2002 season on Jacksonville's injured reserve list.
Russell signed with the Buccaneers after playing briefly with the Washington Redskins in 2003. After sitting out the 2002 season and eventually being released by his original team, Oakland, Russell signed with Washington last year and played in eight games before being waived again.
Russell was a first-round pick of the Raiders in 1997. From his rookie season through 2001, he appeared in 72 games and recorded 223 tackles, 28.5 sacks, one interception and 22 passes defensed.
Russell was thought to be among those competing for the Bucs' nose tackle job, opened when Anthony McFarland switched to under tackle to replace the departed Warren Sapp. Remaining candidates for that job include Chartric Darby, who started nine games (including playoffs) at nose tackle during the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl season, and Ellis Wyms, who has excelled at both end and tackle.
A total of 88 players will be competing for jobs when the Bucs open camp on July 30. Of course, that means the team has additional work to do before the end of the month, as there are still 94 players on the roster. The NFL limit for camp is 80 players plus exemptions, and the six Bucs who competed in the NFLEL season earned the team a total of eight such exemptions. During the offseason, drafted rookies do not count against the roster limit until they have signed a contract, though they may participate in team activities. However, no player may report to training camp without a contract. The Buccaneers have eight unsigned 2004 draft picks.