Trading G Jason Whittle to Giants for a draft pick highlights day of 13 cuts, two moves to injured list.
By RICK STROUD
Published September 1, 2004
TAMPA - Jason Whittle was so plagued by injuries after signing with the Bucs as a free agent two years ago, he could've come with a fragile warning label. On Monday, the veteran guard was returned to sender.
The Bucs traded Whittle for an undisclosed draft pick to the New York Giants, where he began his career, making the most notable move to reduce their roster to the NFL-mandated 65-player limit, excluding seven exemptions for NFL Europe players.
Tampa Bay released 13 players and placed two others on reserve lists. Among those cut were three from the 2004 draft class: fullback Casey Cramer, tight end Nate Lawrie and cornerback Lenny Williams. Guard Matt O'Dwyer was placed on the reserve physically unable to perform list and defensive end Lamar King was moved to injured reserve.
O'Dwyer, the Bengals free agent who was expected to start at guard, tore a pectoral muscle during a weightlifting session two weeks before training camp. He will be eligible to return to the active roster after six games. King suffered a calf injury in training camp and is lost for the season.
Defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks, who suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday's win over the Dolphins, was waived injured, meaning he cannot play for the Bucs until after the 10th week of the season.
"It's always tough," coach Jon Gruden said. "These guys worked hard. A lot of these guys worked every day, sometimes twice a day. Unfortunately, we can't keep everybody. But hopefully, we'll see some of these guys again soon and a lot of these guys might get picked up by other teams. But it's never easy."
Gruden said several players released by the Bucs are eligible for the practice squad, which will be assembled early next week.
"That's another thing the scouting department is doing, looking at everybody else's candidates to join our team on the practice squad," Gruden said. "I have a clear understanding that they're going to expand the roster to eight men this year, so it's a great opportunity to get some guys in here who can develop and hopefully become players, whether it be this year, next year or down the road for us."
Of the 13 players released, only Scott Frost and Reinard Wilson were with the team last season.
By far, the trade of Whittle was the biggest development Monday. From the outset, Whittle was beset with a string of unfortunate injuries. Two years ago, he fractured his fibula during a drill on the first day of minicamp. He managed to return to training camp and won a job at right guard before he a left shoulder sprain limited his play the rest of the season.
While Whittle did not start another game, he played in all 16 last season. With the injury to O'Dwyer, he received playing time at guard and center during the preseason but suffered a slight fracture in his right hand in the first preseason game against the Bengals.
The release of Jason Garrett, who never appeared in a preseason game, means the Bucs have settled on Brian Griese and Chris Simms as backups to quarterback Brad Johnson.
"He's a good quarterback," Gruden said of Garrett. "I wouldn't be surprised if he lands with another team."
Griese and Simms will resume their battle for the No. 2 spot Thursday in the preseason finale at Houston. Griese is expected to relieve Johnson early in the first quarter and Simms will play in the second half.
"It's a good battle," Gruden said. "Both guys have done some good things ... at the same time, nothing's settled."
The Bucs will have another round of cuts Sunday, when all teams must get down to 53 players for the regular season.