Bucs' 53-Man Roster Takes Shape

September 1 – UPDATED: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made several roster moves on Sunday, a few of which were somewhat of a surprise. The Bucs released 17 players, including wide receiver Frank Murphy, who scored two touchdowns during preseason, and veteran cornerback Terrell Buckley. Tampa Bay also placed left defensive end Marcus Jones on the injured reserve and backup DE Ron Warner on the reserve list.

Tampa Bay's 53-man roster took shape on Sunday afternoon after the team released 17 players and placed two others on the injured reserve list. Some people might have considered a few of the roster moves a bit peculiar, but the Buccaneers felt they kept the right 53 players.

The following players were released by Tampa Bay on Sunday:

RB Zain Gilmore

FB Ken Walker

WR Aaron Lockett

WR Jermale Kelly

TE Tracey Wistrom

TE Kyle Kipps

CB Terrell Buckley

G Yusuf Scott

WR Frank Murphy (injured)

DT Tommie Townsend

T Pete Pierson

DE Cedric Pittman

LB Joe Todd

LB Tony Ortiz

CB Corey Chamblin

C/G Zack Quaccia

DB Dwayne Stukes

Tampa Bay placed veteran left defensive end Marcus Jones, who suffered a knee sprain during the Bucs' preseason game against Washington on Aug. 24, on the injured reserve list, which basically ended his 2002 campaign before it even started. Veteran DE Greg Spires will start at left end in place of Jones.

"It was a very tough decision for us," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said. "It was in the team's best interest, we felt putting Marcus on injured reserve was the best thing to do for this football team. Although he will be missed, we got to respond to this challenge and obviously Greg Spires and some of these young guys can help us do that."

Tampa Bay also placed backup DE Ron Warner on the reserve list, but this move was not injury-related, and his season probably is not over. Warner was suspended four games by the Commissioner. Gruden couldn't comment on the reason(s) Warner was suspended, but it could possibly be illegal substance abuse-related.

"Ron Warner was suspended by the Commissioner for four games," Gruden Said. "His status will be determined after four games. But he is suspended by the Commissioner.

"I'm not allowed to talk about that. It's a confidential policy. All I can say is he has been suspended by the Commissioner for four games and his future with the Buccaneers will be determined after that."

By placing Jones on IR and Warner on the reserve list, the Bucs were able to keep defensive tackle Buck Gurley, who will be sidelined a few more weeks with an ankle sprain, and DE Corey Smith, who led the team in preseason sacks with three.

While most people assumed the Buccaneers would keep six wide receivers on its roster, they only elected to keep five, which made WR Frank Murphy the odd man out. Murphy was arguably the hardest working Buccaneer during the offseason and preseason. He caught five passes for 40 yards, including a three-yard touchdown score against Jacksonville. He also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. He averaged 32.3 yards per return on six attempts. But Murphy suffered a pulled hamstring against the Washington Redskins, which limited his playing time for the final two preseason games. Murphy didn't play against Houston last Friday night.

"Frank has an injury right now," Gruden said. "He's got a hamstring injury. I think the big thing is, we based it all on performance. Although Frank did a good job early in camp, it became very difficult with the numbers in the final end of this situation to keep him. That's a position that we'll continue to look at carefully. We could bring in another wideout before it's all said and done."

Murphy is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks. When considering the fact the Buccaneers have never returned a kickoff for a touchdown during the regular season in its history (1,545 attempts), the decision to part ways with Murphy probably was the most curious roster move of them all. But Gruden didn't rule out the possibility of Murphy playing again for the Bucs this season.

"Waived/injured means we could technically call Frank (Murphy) back to this year's football team," Gruden said. "Depending on what occurs in the next couple weeks you might see Frank Murphy back in Tampa."

By only keeping five wide receivers on its roster, Tampa Bay was also able to keep seven linebackers, including Justin Smith, who had two sacks and eight tackles during preseason as the team's third-string middle linebacker. Both starting MLB Shelton Quarles and SLB Al Singleton are in contract years, which might explain why the Bucs opted to keep seven linebackers.

Tampa Bay was able to keep five players at both the cornerback and safety positions. The biggest name cut out of both of these groups was veteran CB Terrell Buckley, who had signed a one-year contract with the Bucs just before training camp started. Despite intercepting a pass and recording five tackles, Buckley wasn't a very good tackler, especially in run support, which might have convinced the Bucs to instead keep rookie Tim Wansley, who played exceptionally well against Houston last Friday night.

Tampa Bay kept four of its eight 2002 draft selections on its 53-man roster, which means Gruden parted ways with several players he inherited from the Tony Dungy era. Bucs veteran tight end Todd Yoder beat out seventh-round pick Tracey Wistrom for the third-string tight end spot. Tampa Bay also kept RB Travis Stephens, S Jermaine Phillips, WR Marquise Walker and Wansley.

The Buccaneers can begin to assemble its five-man practice squad on Sept. 2. Some of the players added to that list could be players who were cut by Tampa Bay during training camp and preseason.

"There is a possibility of that," Gruden said. "We are going to look obviously at who is available tonight to try and determine which way we go in that direction. I don't want to try and tell you anybody that we might be interested in bringing back, it makes it a little bit harder to get them if you know what I mean."

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