With injuries taking their toll on Tampa Bay’s offensive line, the Buccaneers brought back a familiar face Sunday, signing tackle Todd Steussie to a one-year contract worth league minimum.
In order to make room for Steussie on their roster, the Bucs released wide receiver Adrian Madise.
Steussie, 34, was released on July 28 after playing in 16 games (five starts0 during his first year with the Bucs, who had signed him to a six-year, $20 million contract during the 2004 offseason. That move left just over $2.5 million in dead money on Tampa Bay’s books for the 2005 season.
The Bucs have four offensive linemen – tackles Derrick Deese (ankle) and Kenyatta Walker (knee), center Scott Jackson (hand) and guard Dan Buenning nursing injuries, and with the team being short another tackle due to Lance Nimmo’s retirement, the Bucs felt the need to bring in a player who is familiar with their system.
“Fortunately, Todd wanted to come back at the minimum,” said Bucs general manager Bruce Allen. “We explored all options, including trades, but no one wants to trade in an offensive tackle right now. There’s not a supplemental draft coming up, so yes, we signed Todd.”
While there’s still a chance he will be asked to be a swing tackle, Steussie will play primarily at left tackle. In fact, he spent Sunday morning’s practice working there with the second-team offense.
“Yeah, he’s going to be a left tackle,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Steussie. “As I said yesterday, we don’t want to disrupt where we’re going here, with Buenning and [Matt] Stinchcomb at left guard, the internal part of our line. We don’t want to make changes. We’re not playing Jeb Terry at right tackle unless there’s a contingency of the second or third degree. We want Jeb to keep working at right guard, and we want Kenyatta and [Chris] Colmer to take the reps at right tackle. So in fairness to Anthony Davis, we’re going to have Todd Steussie take all his reps at the left tackle position and hopefully help us.”
After spending the first 10 years of his pro career at left tackle, Steussie is happy to return there, and to the Bucs, after a tough one-year stint on the right side.
“That’s always been my comfort zone,” Steussie said of playing left tackle. “Last year I was trying to do something that I thought would work and it never quite took the way I was hoping it to. So, it’s nice to be on the other side and hopefully get a chance to show my teammates and my coaches what I’m capable of playing my natural position.”
While Steussie had some other teams expressing interest in him, having some “unfinished business” in Tampa Bay made returning to the Bucs appealing.
“I had some decisions to make,” said Steussie. “In the end it basically came down to where I felt like I had some unfinished business here. I didn’t like how things ended last year from a team standpoint or on a personal standpoint.”
If Deese and Walker return to full health, there’s no guarantee Steussie will make Tampa Bay’s active roster this season. However, he hopes to stick around long enough to show his critics that his performance last year was the exception and not the norm.
“I hopefully don’t consider myself just another guy in camp,” said Steussie. “I’m looking forward to competing and I think I’ll be given that chance. Then it’s just what I do with it. There are other teams that are interested and, like I said, it was a very fluid situation that I was about other teams. Some were interested now, some were interested in a week from now. Then there’s always the possibility of injuries. I’m past that point now. All the contract stuff got resolved today, so now I’m back on the practice field and that’s where I want to be.”
INJURY UPDATE: In addition to Deese, Walker, Buenning and Jackson missing practice Sunday, linebacker Marquis Cooper missed his second straight workout with a lower back strain. Cornerback Juran Bolden is still working through an abdominal strain, and safety Dexter Jackson was in and out of practice Sunday with a tight hamstring.
Despite the number of injured players growing by the day, Gruden remains optimistic that all of the players nursing injuries will return to practice in a timely manner.
“We’re pretty fortunate right now in terms of injuries,” said Gruden. “Kenyatta is going to be able to play, we’re just being smart with him right now in the two-a-day grind. Buenning is going to be back hopefully tomorrow; Derrick Deese, I’m told, will be back some time next week; Scott Jackson’s been back with a broken hand. That thing has been fitted for a cast and hopefully once the swelling goes down in the next 48 hours he’ll be back. So we expect to have a good rotation for the first game.”
AFTERNOON PRACTICE CANCELLED: After holding its morning practice in full pads, Tampa Bay cancelled its afternoon practice approximately 15 minutes in to it due to severe weather in the Orlando area.
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