On Monday afternoon, Jordan Shipley was like an arrow about to be unsheathed. He knew he would soon be headed somewhere, and fast, but had no way of knowing where the target would be.
Then the NFL waiver wire cleared at 4:00 p.m. ET, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' claim on the former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver was awarded and Shipley received a call from the Bucs' player personnel department. Shipley's NFL journey was once again progressing forward.
Shipley felt like he had been moving in one direction, steadily, since a knee injury had halted his second pro season just two games into 2011. He had gone through the recovery process, had received clearance to participate in training camp, had even played in both of Cincinnati's first two preseason games and made his first live-action catch in 11 months. He was working hard to regain the prominent role in the Bengals' offense that had allowed him to catch 52 passes for 600 yards and three scores as a rookie in 2010. Then Cincinnati let him go last Friday (NFL waiver claims are not awarded on Saturday or Sunday, thus the three-day wait).
Shipley says he is unsure of the thought process that led to his release by the Bengals, but he doesn't regret any of that work he put in over the last 11 months in Cincinnati. That has simply put him in a good position to succeed in his second NFL stop.
"I definitely felt like I was progressing out there," he said on Tuesday after his first workout with his new team. "It felt like maybe it was a decision they had made before. I feel like I was coming along, doing good and progressing, but that's good because now I'll be ready to go here."
Shipley insists his repaired knee is fine – he spends a little extra time warming up before and icing down after each practice – and he's full-go on the field. His more immediate concern is replacing one databank of knowledge in his head with another as quickly as possible so that he can operate in Mike Sullivan's Buccaneer offense.
"It's a totally different system as far as terminology," said Shipley. "So I'm going to have a busy day today and the next couple days probably, just learning everything so I can get comfortable with all the terminology."
He might find himself in a somewhat familiar role in Tampa, however. Shipley's outstanding rookie season was spent largely in the slot, where his quick cuts and reliable hands made him a good target in traffic. The Bucs also had him field a handful of punts on Tuesday, and he would happily accept an opportunity to battle for a return job.
"I think I just have a feel for it," said Shipley of the slot-receiver role. "I think it comes naturally to me. Obviously, you get open and catch the ball, and those are two things that I love to do. I [also] love punt return.
" I'll do anything I can to contribute and help this team win. It's been a little while since I've played in a regular-season game, and I've got to go out there and show what I can do."