The Buccaneers announced that they have claimed former Green Bay Packers running back Kregg Lumpkin and former New England Patriots center Ted Larsen off waivers on Sunday. To make room for Lumpkin and Larsen, Tampa Bay released kick returner and running back Clifton Smith and rookie right tackle Derek Hardman.
Smith, who was signed as an undrafted free agent during the 2008 season, made the team and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl after being the second in the NFL in punt return yardage with a 14.1-yard average and a touchdown. Smith was fifth in the NFL and second in the NFC in kick return yardage with a 27.6-yard average and a 97-yard touchdown.
Last year, Smith was leading the NFL in kick returns with a 29.1-yard average, including a key 83-yard kick return in the team's win against Green Bay. Smith ended the 2009 season on injured reserve after suffering two concussions while playing in nine games.
Smith, who is currently featured in a huge mural at Raymond James Stadium, struggled with a preseason knee and hamstring injury and had a mediocre training camp. In addition to battling injuries, Smith has been labeled a fumbler during his three-year NFL career, and that, combined with less than stellar production as a running back, contributed to his release.
In addition, Tampa Bay had a surpius of qualified return men on the roster with Micheal Spurlock, who returned Tampa Bay's first kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in 2007 and returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown in 2009, Sammie Stroughter, who returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown last year, in addition to running back Kareem Huggins and rookie Preston Parker.
Hardman originally made the Bucs' 53-man roster due to Demar Dotson being placed ured reserve, but the team has veteran James Lee and the versatile Jeremy Zuttah that can play tackle in case something happens to starters Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood.
Lumpkin, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2008, originally made the roster after rushing for 153 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries (4.0 avg.). However, he was active for just three games before a hamstring injury placed him on injured reserve after rushing once for 19 yards and catching three passes for 22 yards during the 2008 season.
Lumpkin, 5-foot-11, 228 pounds, was second on the team in rushing during the 2009 preseason with 95 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries (3.5 avg.), but was released and signed to the practice squad.
In the 2010 preseason, Lumpkin rushed for 104 yards and scored a team-high three touchdowns.
At Georgia, Lumpkin, a power back, rushed for 1,656 yards and 15 TDs on 340 carries (4.9 avg.). He does not possess great speed, evidenced by the fact that his longest run in college was 34 yards against West Virginia in 2005 and his most productive game came against Auburn in 2006 when he rushed for 105 yards on 21 carries.
Larsen, a sixth-round pick in April's draft, was among New England's final roster cuts on Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 305 pound Larsen is versatile enough to play both guard and center for the Bucs and excels in pass protection. He also possesses tremendous quickness and speed. Larsen fills Tampa Bay's need at their backup center spot, as the team waived Jonathan Compas to cut their roster down to 53 men.
Larsen grew up in the Tampa Bay area and played high school football at Palm Harbor before going to North Carolina State. The former Wolfpack star changed positions to center in 2008 after playing defensive tackle in high school and during his first two years in college.
At the Senior Bowl, Larsen talked about playing for his hometown team and now he'll get the opportunity to do just that.
"I definitely wouldn't mind playing center for [the Bucs]," Larsen said. "I think I'm bigger than Jeff Faine is and he's someone that's definitely comparable to me being a zone-blocking quick guy."
Andrew Scavelli also contributed to this report.