tampabay.com

Today's cuts reduce roster to 75 players

By JOANNE KORTH and STEPHEN F. HOLDER
Published August 29, 2006


TAMPA - By this afternoon, the Bucs must cut 14 players from the roster to reach the league maximum of 75.

The decisions aren't easy.

Sometimes, coaches disagree.

Sometimes, discussions get animated, especially when special teams coach Richard Bisaccia feels the need to lobby for a player another coach might not want.

"Just because you might not be the No. 1 linebacker, No. 1 fullback or No. 1 wide receiver on the board, you might be No. 1 on the board in special teams," coach Jon Gruden said. "Some of these do get animated because there is strategy involved in who the men are that make the 53-man roster and who you have active on each and every Sunday."

The final 53-man roster is due Saturday, which means the hardest decisions will come after Thursday's final preseason game at Houston. But the first round of cuts is difficult, too. For some, it could mean the end of their NFL dreams.

"Hopefully, they feel they had a fair camp," Gruden said; "that everybody got a chance to compete and prove what they could do. But it's never easy. A guy's dream will be put to an end, at least in Tampa. But hopefully, these guys have enough exposure and are in good enough shape where someone else gives them a chance."

Unlike previous seasons, teams will not receive roster exemptions for sending players to NFL Europe. Also, injured quarterbacks Jay Fiedler and Luke McCown count toward the total.

FRUSTRATED FIEDLER: It is looking more likely Fiedler will not begin the season on the active roster.

Nearly two months after his signing and a full month past the initial target date for his return (the beginning of training camp), Fiedler still is not ready to practice because of his surgically repaired throwing shoulder.

His absence, coupled with McCown's summer knee injury, all but guarantees the Bucs will stick with Tim Rattay and Bruce Gradkowski as backups. Fiedler most likely will be placed on the physically unable to perform list, from which he could be activated after Week 6.

"It's just a matter of what the arm is allowing me to do," Fiedler said Monday. "I'm pushing through it, but unfortunately, my arm is holding me back a little bit.

INK HIM IN: In running down the list of draft picks, Gruden let slip that Maurice Stovall, a third-rounder from Notre Dame, will make the team from among a talented group of receivers.

"Stovall is a physical presence that is going to make this team," Gruden said. "I will make that statement. He's going to be on the football team."

That still leaves suspense among receivers on the bubble, including David Boston, Edell Shepherd, Paris Warren and Chas Gessner.

SPECIALIST HURT: Punt returner Mark Jones sprained his right ankle during his second attempt Saturday at Jacksonville. He does not expect to play Thursday but does not expect the injury to keep him from making the team.

"I'm going to rest and rehab and get back for Baltimore," said Jones, referring to the Sept. 10 season opener. "I feel good and confident."

Jones ranked seventh in the NFL last season with a 9.6-yard average.