By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 28, 2000
TAMPA -- As the Bucs safeties began going down through the first few weeks of training camp, Shevin Smith braced himself for a busy week against the Patriots and what he thought was going to be a busy first few weeks of the season.
But ligament damage to his left big toe during that Aug. 20 game sidelined Smith for the rest of the preseason and ultimately cost him a job.
Smith, who would have entered the season as a backup to Damien Robinson, was waived Sunday and given an injury settlement.
By waiving him under those conditions, the Bucs can resign Smith after 10 weeks. Smith, an ex-Seminole entering his third season, can sign with any team at any time.
"Shevin's situation is a little bit different," coach Tony Dungy said. "We had a couple of different options there. But we went with the injury settlement with the idea that we have a chance to get him back. If we put him on (injured reserve), he'd be done for the year."
The Bucs, who also waived Jeff Popovich, have four healthy safeties -- Robinson, John Lynch, rookie David Gibson and Lemar Marshall, who signed Wednesday. Second-year free safety Dexter Jackson (severe ankle sprain) is expected to be back in the next few weeks.
LAST MEN IN: Marshall and tight end Blake Spence, who joined the Bucs five days ago, made the roster despite having limited practice time and playing in only one game.
"I guess it's unusual, but I guess when you bring in guys at the time when we brought them in you feel pretty good about them," Dungy said. "Lemar Marshall, we knew, he got hurt for us last year in camp and had really done a good job. We liked him, we knew he knew our system."
Spence, waived by the Jets, could provide blocking help and could turn into an H-back.
"If you have a good feel for a guy, in a week or so you can see if he would fit in," Dungy said. "If we claim someone, (tonight) it would be someone we had a real good feel on, (someone) that we think can help us."
YODELING YODER: He caught the winning touchdown in the preseason opener against the Redskins and has been consistent in practice. The effort was good enough to make Todd Yoder, the former Vanderbilt star, the only rookie free-agent signee to make the team.
"I don't think he's surprised," Dungy said. "That's what he came here to do and he did a good job for us, really learning the position and doing some good things on special teams."
Yoder's effort likely helped make a bit easier the decision to waive fellow tight end James Whalen. Whalen, a fifth-round selection from Kentucky, is the only one of this year's five draft picks not to make the team.
"It was tough on James," Dungy said. "He didn't really get the opportunity (because of a hamstring injury) ... to do everything in the passing game like we thought he could do. And it was kind of a numbers game more than anything else. Some of the other guys came along and did a little bit better."
That also describes the work of running back/returner Aaron Stecker, who parlayed an MVP effort in NFL Europe to a slot on the roster.
"Well, he's on the team and he has returned kicks for us and has done it pretty well," Dungy said. "But I think we'll have to wait until 1 p.m. Sunday to see who the kickoff returner is."
DEVELOPMENTAL SQUAD: The Bucs can begin signing players to their developmental squad at 4 p.m. today and some players released Sunday could factor in. "You look at other guys who have had high grades in the draft, guys that you like, and try to get the five best guys," Dungy said. "We'll consider all the guys that we let go at the end. Obviously, we liked them to carry them that far."
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