Unlike dozens of other players who changed NFL addresses over a busy weekend of roster shuffling, D.J. Ware didn't have his new destination determined for him. As a vested veteran with five accrued seasons under his belt, he wasn't subject to the waiver system. After being released by the New York Giants on Friday, he could see which teams around the NFL might be interested in his services – if more than one came calling – and then choose the situation that was best for him.
Ware did, in fact, draw interest from multiply teams after his release. He chose the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and on Monday he had his first practice with his new team as on-field preparations began for Sunday's season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
After the workout, Ware stood in the locker room at One Buccaneer place among his teammates, looking happy, if slightly weary after an unexpectedly hectic weekend.
"It was kind of frustrating at the beginning, but when doors close, another one opens," said Ware of his release from the Giants, for whom he had filled an increasingly large role in the backfield over the last three years. "The Bucs brought me in and I felt wanted, I felt needed. I'm just here to help out, and anything I can do I'm willing to do."
Tampa Bay had the perfect representative to reach out to Ware, as their new offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, made the same move from New York to Florida earlier in the year. Sullivan had been on the Giants' offensive staff for the previous eight years, coaching the receivers for six seasons and the quarterbacks for the last two. Ware said he missed Sullivan this offseason after the coach's departure, and a chance to reunite with him, especially now that he's the play-caller, helped him make his decision to come to Tampa.
"He believes in me and I believe in him," said Ware. "It's just one of those things where it's like a brotherhood, so I just want to go out there and work and help him out. I know he's ready. He's been itching for it and I think he deserves it. I put all my trust in him and I know he's going to make the right calls at the right time."
It may take a little time for Sullivan and the rest of the Bucs' staff to define the most productive role for Ware, but he could help right away as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Ware, who also has good size (6-0, 225) to provide protection for Buccaneer quarterbacks on passing downs, had a career-high 27 receptions for the Super Bowl champion Giants last year.
"First and foremost, I think he can be a third-down back," said Head Coach Greg Schiano. "He's done that in this league effectively. That would be nice to start there, but carrying the football we will have to see. I've said all along there are only so many touches and those touches are earned. Although he doesn't have those here, he has them in this league so I think we just have to see how he fits in in this environment."