Rookie RB Clifton Smith was one of the Bucs' most productive offensive players in the preseason
He was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' leading pass-catcher in the 2008 preseason, and a dynamic kick returner to boot, and now he's getting his first chance to play in the regular season.
On Saturday, the Buccaneers promoted rookie running back Clifton Smith from the practice squad. He could make his regular-season NFL debut on Sunday in Dallas if the coaches keep him among the 45 players active on game day.
To make room for Smith on the 53-man roster, the Buccaneers released tackle Anthony Davis, a fifth-year veteran.
The Buccaneers announced those roster moves upon the team's arrival in Dallas on Saturday afternoon. The team also revealed, as per NFL regulations, two players that did not make the trip with the team and thus are definitely out for Sunday's game: fullback B.J. Askew and wide receiver Maurice Stovall.
Smith joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State in May. Though small by NFL standards (5-8, 190 pounds), Smith came up big in his first NFL preseason, pacing the Buccaneers' offense with 11 catches for 91 yards. He also ran the ball 19 times for 53 yards.
If Smith is involved in Sunday's game plan, it may be as a kickoff and punt returner. He had his shot at both of those jobs during the preseason, two, averaging 13.8 yards on four punt returns and 23.5 yards on two kickoff returns. Those runbacks included a 30-yarder on a punt and a 26-yarder on a kickoff.
Though stressing that rookie wide receiver Dexter Jackson is still in the mix to retain his hold on both return jobs this Sunday, Head Coach Jon Gruden conceded during the week that the Buccaneers are exploring other options. Those include running backs Michael Bennett and Earnest Graham and wide receivers Michael Clayton and Joey Galloway. Smith, too, might be considered.
In 35 career games at Fresno State, Smith tallied 630 yards and five touchdowns on 102 carries (6.2 avg.) and added 34 receptions for 368 yards. He also returned 47 punts for 782 yards with five touchdowns and 10 kickoffs for 182 yards. After overcoming a severe knee injury, Smith had a breakout senior campaign, totaling 625 rushing yards on 100 carries with five touchdowns and 33 receptions for 352 yards. In 2005, he set an NCAA record against Weber State with three punt returns for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Davis also joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2003. He has played in 46 games with 32 starts for Tampa Bay, and was the team's starter at left tackle in 2005 and 2006.