The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought back a familiar face Wednesday, signing 2004 seventh-round draft pick Mark Jones to the team’s active roster.
The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Jones spent training camp and preseason with Tampa Bay last year before being released just prior the start of the regular season. The Bucs attempted to sign Jones to their practice squad, but the New York Giants picked up off of waivers.
The Bucs expressed their disappointment in losing Jones, who returned punts and played wide receiver and cornerback at the University of Tennesssee, to the Giants last year, especially after WR Joey Galloway suffered a groin injured in Week 1. That injury rendered the speedy Galloway unavailable for nearly half the season, which had a negative impact on offense and special teams., where Jones was expected to play before he was released by the Bucs.
“I’m definitely happy that I got the opportunity to come back,” said Jones. “I don’t like to get cut and move from team to team, but hopefully I can find a home here in Tampa and show the coaches that I still have it.”
Last year, Jones played in 14 games with the Giants, returning 34 punts. He averaged 6.7 yards per return and had 11 fair catches and gained 20-plus yards on three returns. Jones, who is coming off of a foot injury that sidelined him for nearly three weeks, had an injury-plagued stint with the Giants, who released him on Sept. 3.
“I was out for three weeks,” said Jones. “But the Bucs worked me out yesterday and everything is healed. Everything looked good, and everything feels good to me. I’m ready to get back out there again.”
Although Jones may not play against Minnesota, he’s expected to return punts for the Bucs, who averaged just 1.9 yards per return in preseason, throughout the 2005 regular season.
“He’s a guy that’s obviously returned punts in this league and we’re familiar with him,” Gruden said of Jones, who will sport jersey No. 89. “He’s fast and he’s a good punt returner. He proved that last year in New York. It’s up to us now to find a way to get him active. If we can do that, there’s a good chance he’ll be back there returning punts. That’s why he’s here.”
In order to make room for Jones on their active roster, the Bucs released WR Larry Brackins, who entered the NFL with Tampa Bay as a fifth-round pick last April. However, Brackins was signed to Tampa Bay’s practice squad later Wednesday evening. The Bucs made two other roster moves Wednesday, releasing WR DeAndrew Rubin from their practice squad and signing tackle Drew Strojny.
Strojny (6-7, 327) entered the NFL as a seventh-round pick of the Giants in 2004. He spent last season on Philadelphia’s practice squad and was released by the Eagles on Aug. 27.
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