According to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' official twitter feed they have released running back Derrick Ward. I'm surprised they decide to cut their losses after one year but Kareem Huggins definitely outplayed him this preseason. It looks like Clifton Smith may be safe after all.
Along with Ward, Terrance Nunn and Jon Alston were also released. I actually thought Alston was playing well but he missed the last game with an injury.
I'll update the post later with any new information.
Update: Here is part of the official press release
"It's more about the resurgence of Mr. Cadillac and Mr. 'Insurance' Graham, where the team is headed, our plan and our direction," said Morris. "No decision is made lightly around here. It was just time to make it today.
"It was about everybody's skill level on our football team and how we see our team fitting right now. We've got Cadillac, who we're all happy to have, and we also have Insurance Graham for us back there. He's able to carry the ball for us as well. And also we have our little spark plug in Huggy, and he's able to come in and provide a different look for us. We look forward to watching those guys run the rest of the preseason."
Graham has taken over the Buccaneers' starting fullback role but he remains a talented ballcarrier as well. In 2007, after a season-ending knee injury to Williams, Graham emerged as a productive NFL starter, rushing for 898 yards and 10 touchdowns on 222 carries. He is also a talented passcatcher out of the backfield, as evidenced by his 86 receptions over the last three seasons.
Williams returned from the aforementioned injury and another one suffered at the end of the 2008 season to recapture the starting job in 2009. His impressive comeback season included 823 yards and four touchdowns on 211 carries and 28 receptions for 217 yards and three more scores. Williams remains firmly entrenched in the starting role heading into 2010, and Graham's presence gives the Bucs a valuable second weapon in the backfield, even as he continues to help the team as a fullback.
"If you're a fullback or a running back, you sit in the same room, you hear the same information, you do the same ball-carrying drills," said Morris. [Graham] is versatile; that's the thing that makes Earnest special. We look forward to expanding his role and letting him play in all those different situations. He's got some short-yardage stuff for us, some goal-line, and we'll be able to do more of those things for us. We'll be able to use his versatility a little bit more."
First I want to correct the information on Jon Alston. He was put on IR, not released. That actually makes a lot more sense because I thought he was playing pretty well.
Second, after reading the press release I'm starting to rethink my earlier proclamation that Clifton Smith is safe now. I predicted yesterday that the Bucs would only carry one fullback on the active roster so they can keep 4 tight ends. But after reading about how they plan to expand Earnest Graham's role I think there's a chance that the Bucs will carry 4 tight ends AND 2 fullbacks and still cut Clifton Smith. It gives the team insurance if Caddy or Earnest gets hurt and now you get to keep that thumper type fullback who is a road grater for short yardage and goalline situations.
I'm still kind of on the fence on this one but I can see both sides of the argument. In short I still think Smith's job is in jeopardy at this point and he may have to play his way onto the roster in the game this week.