By DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 5, 2001
TAMPA -- The Bucs signed rookie defensive tackle DeVone Claybrooks to the practice squad Tuesday, adding depth at a position weakened by injuries.
A final practice squad player is expected to sign today.
DeVone, inactive while on the practice squad, could be activated to back up starter Anthony McFarland for Sunday's opener at Dallas while veteran James Cannida (knee) and rookie Ellis Wyms (leg) recover.
According to a preliminary injury report released Tuesday, Cannida is out and Wyms is questionable.
Claybrooks, 6 feet 3 and 292 pounds, lasted until the final cuts with Green Bay this preseason. The Packers signed him out of East Carolina as an undrafted rookie.
CENTER OF ATTENTION: The uncertainty surrounding the center position likely will be cleared up today when the team practices in full pads.
Todd Washington is scheduled to start against Dallas, but the Bucs hope to find out today if injured veteran Jeff Christy will be healthy enough to serve as backup.
If not, one option would be to active free-agent rookie Leon Hires from the practice squad. Another would be to sign someone off the waiver wire.
"Obviously we're looking at the wire and all different options that are still available," offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. "We could do a lot of things."
Coach Tony Dungy reiterated that Christy isn't expected to be healthy until the second or third week of the season. And the preliminary injury report lists him as being out, along with guard Russ Hochstein (foot) and cornerback Dwight Smith (foot).
Although the team hopes Christy can play Sunday, Dungy said he won't be rushed back too soon.
"He's got to be ready to play in his mind and in the doctor's mind," Dungy said. "If he wants to play and the doctor says no, then we're not going to play him. If the doctor says yes, but he's not ready to (play), we're not going to play him.
"But if the doctor says he's fine and he feels good, then we'll play him."
RETURN TO SENDER: Though nothing is official, it appears receiver Karl Williams will handle some kickoff and punt-return duties against Dallas.
Williams was the team's top returner last season and says he's ready for this season though he had no returns in the preseason.
Rookies and free agents handled most of the preseason turns. Williams got a couple of chances in the finale at Atlanta, but didn't return either.
"I felt comfortable back there and I felt comfortable with my decisions, so I'm ready to go," he said. "I'm not intimidated because I haven't had a return all preseason. I prepare myself from week to week as if I'm going (to return kicks and punts) so nothing is going to change for me when I get back there (against Dallas)."
Receivers Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green and Frank Murphy, and running back Aaron Stecker could also handle some return duties.