The arrival of a new coaching staff afforded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers an opportunity to hold an extra mini-camp this week, while most of the NFL's teams were still limited to strength and conditioning work. And the fact that the Buccaneers, while enjoying almost 100% attendance at the voluntary camp, were running a little short at several positions afforded a few young hopefuls an opportunity of their own.
On Thursday, a few hours after the last practice of that three-day mini-camp, the Buccaneers announced the signing of two players: safety Ron Girault and running back Robert Hughes.
Girault and Hughes were two of about a half-dozen players who took part in the mini-camp on tryout contracts, and obviously both young players impressed Head Coach Greg Schiano and his staff. The two signings reflected both the good work of Girault and Hughes on the practice field and the team's thinned ranks in the offensive and defensive backfields. LeGarrette Blount and Mossis Madu were the only tailbacks on the Bucs' offseason roster heading into the week, and the Bucs recently released former starting safety Tanard Jackson.
Girault, 26, and Hughes, 22, will now have the opportunity to participate in the rest of the Buccaneers'' offseason program and, assuming they maintain their roster spots into July, head to training camp in pursuit of a more permanent job. Both players have previously been in NFL training camps but are still looking for their first regular-season roster spots.
Girault most recently played for the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL but is familiar to the Bucs' coaching staff as he played his college ball at Rutgers under Schiano. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 and also spent time that summer with the New York Jets. At Rutgers, he started for four seasons, appearing in 45 games and recording 271 tackles and 10 interceptions.
Hughes was also an undrafted free agent signee, joining the Chicago Bears last summer after a productive college career at Notre Dame. During the 2011 preseason, he carried the ball 18 times for 69 yards and a team-leading two touchdowns and also caught two passes for 26 yards. At Notre Dame, Hughes rushed for 1,392 yards and 15 touchdowns in 47 games.