Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Start Your Engines

The off-season has officially begun for the Buccaneers, and so have the player signings


The Bucs added several potential backups to Pro Bowl FB Mike Alstott on Tuesday

Think it's over? Well, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' personnel department, it has only just begun. The Bucs' season didn't officially end until 6:29 on Sunday evening, but by Monday the team's personnel staff had begun the construction of the 2000 roster. By Tuesday, there was a list of new Buccaneers.

The NFL's free agency period begins on February 11, but players who were not on a team roster at the end of the 1999 season can be signed by any team in the interim. Also, all players on any team's practice squad become free agents as soon as that team's season has ended. Each team then has seven days of exclusive negotiating time with their own practice squad players before they become available for signing by any team. In addition, all injured reserve players revert to the active roster.

The Buccaneers announced the signings of 12 such players on Tuesday, including three of the team's four practice squad players: C Eric DeGroh, WR Drew O'Connor and RB Aaron Stecker. Another practice squad player, T DeMarcus Curry, was signed to the team's active roster last Saturday, one day before the team's NFC Championship Game in St. Louis, along with free agent LB Antony Jordan .

Three of the other nine players added to the roster on Tuesday were with the Buccaneers in their most recent training camp: CB Curtis Anderson, TE Jason Freeman and LB Bobbie Howard. The other six are: FB Jim Kitts (most recently with Green Bay), TE Henry Lusk (New England), CB Deshone Mallard (Philadelphia), FB Jameion Spencer (Philadelphia), LB Shawn Stuckey (New England) and LB Kinnon Tatum (Carolina). Coincidentally, three of those players – Howard, Spencer and Tatum – played together at Notre Dame.

Of the players added on Tuesday, Anderson, Kitts, Lusk, Stuckey and Tatum have regular-season experience in the NFL. Anderson played the second half of the 1997 season with Jacksonville after a training-camp conversion from wide receiver to cornerback. He appeared in the Jaguars' final nine games of '97 and contributed eight stops on special teams.

Kitts has appeared in a total of 15 games for Miami, Washington and Green Bay and recorded 16 special teams tackles in those contests. He also played for the Frankfurt Galaxy of the World League in 1997, rushing three times for 10 yards and adding 10 receptions for 53 yards.

Lusk's career record includes 19 games and 14 starts, most coming in his rookie season of 1996, when he appeared in all 16 games and started three for the New Orleans Saints. A seventh-round draft pick of the Saints that year, Lusk caught 27 passes for 210 yards in '96. He also played in three games with one start for Miami in 1998.

Stuckey started the 1998 season on New England's practice squad but was elevated to the active roster in November and went on to play in six regular-season games plus one playoff contest, exclusively on special teams. He recorded five special teams tackles and one fumble recovery on a kickoff.

The most experienced of this group, Tatum originally entered the league as a third-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 1997 after leading the Fighting Irish in tackles as a senior in '96. He remained on the Panthers' roster throughout the 1997 and '98 seasons, appearing in all but one game and posting 27 tackles, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery.

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