Adam Humphries went from bubble player in 2015 to starter in 2016 – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Late August, with its some-odd 37 roster cuts, is a difficult time for everyone in an NFL organization. No one likes to be fired and most people don’t like seeing or doing the firing. Tampa Bay has already waived or released 12 players and by Saturday the team will cut 24 more to reach the 53-man capacity.
Players and coaches may understand the business but that doesn’t make it easier.
WR Russell Shepard – Photo: Cliff Welch/PR
“This is one of the saddest times in the NFL,” wide receiver Russell Shepard said, echoing coach Dirk Koetter’s remarks on Saturday. “It’s hard to walk around here happy and laughing and all that. But it’s a part of the league.”
“Camp can be tough,” Adam Humphries said. “But just working with some close friends and all the laughs in the locker room and receiver room, (it’s important to) just enjoy it. When it’s all said and done, the best make the team.”
Just because a player’s time in Tampa may be over, though, doesn’t mean their NFL career has run its course. Shepard, who was released by Philadelphia as an undrafted rookie in 2013, knows that better than anyone. The LSU product used that dark period as motivation.
“I’ve been cut; I’ve been fired,” Shepard said. “It was something that I will never forget, something that has kind of sustained. But at the same time, I’ve used it to motivate me in a positive way and turn things around in my career.”
As a special teams captain, known best for his ability as a gunner on the kicking team, that mentality has paid off for Shepard. In four years he’s gone from an undrafted player out of LSU, where he was recruited as a duel-threat QB but played receiver and running back, to a lock for the final 53-man roster. The Bucs have even found ways to use him on offense, though, as Shepard said himself, “My No. 1 job is to be able to lead from a special teams standpoint.”
Humphries, for his part, has enjoyed similar success. After going undrafted out of Clemson in 2015, the 5-foot-10 pro proved his ability in training camp last year and was named the starting slot receiver less than 365 days later. The turning point for Humphries then, fittingly, was in Week 4 of the preseason.
Bucs OC/WRs coach Todd Monken – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Entering that week now, Humphries has solid advice for the guys trying to earn a final roster spot and perhaps even more important advice for the guys who won’t make the cut.
“You just have to take it day by day,” said Humphries, who caught four passes for 62 yards and a TD for his final audition in last year’s Week 4 preseason game in Miami. “The best advice would be to keep your head down, keep working and just realize that you put a lot into this.”
And for the players who will eventually be waived or released, “Whatever happens, you can just be satisfied with the body of work you put in here,” he said.
Shepard would especially agree with that last statement. The time and effort players’ put in over the offseason wasn’t just an audition for the Bucs, but 31 other teams, as well. Monday’s practice could be the final day in a Bucs uniform for two guys, and 22 more will eventually have to explore other options by the weekend. But even if they don’t find their way back to Tampa Bay, you could still see them pop up in another city.
And their soon-to-be former teammates will be among those rooting them on.
“A lot of guys are going to leave here and have major careers elsewhere,” Shepard said. “That’s kind of the fun part about this league. You see other guys’ journeys and stories tell themselves as the years go on.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Most American’s love the underdog. Hell, this whole country was built against overwhelming forces by a small band of underdogs which is probably why we as a country love them so much.
When somone like Humprhries, Shepherd and ex Buc Ernest Graham make the team and contribute with a lot of positive plays, most Buc fans rejoice in that.
Seattle is another team that has a whole slew of FA’s on their unit and it sure hasn’t hurt the quality of that team.
BTW Pewter Report, with a Tropical Depression projected to make landfall north of Tampa on Thursday, has there been any word from One Buc Place if they plan on still having the game Thursday night or have any other contingency plans been put in place.
Lots of cuts coming and there will plenty of final add ons and tweaks right up into the beginning of the season. Some players will even be brought back, and depending on overall health of the roster, expect plenty of surprises.
Years ago Mark Dominik served as the turk. Who is the turk now?
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