Ratliff originally entered the NFL in 2004 as a second-round draft pick out of Florida. He played in 51 career games (eight starts) with the Bengals before the team released him in late September.
“I worked out with Tampa along with a lot of other teams, but it was a surprise. I kind of made myself a Florida guy so to get to come back home is always a good thing.”
The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Ratliff has notched 101 tackles, three interceptions and 13 passes defensed during his four-year career. The Bucs are anxious to see what type of impact Ratliff can make on their team, which is 5-4 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC South division.
“We tried to do a lot of the same things that Tampa did in college," Ratliff said. "So we called ourselves the mini-Bucs on defense. We did a lot of the same schemes and the same terminology. So I did, but we weren’t as good as these guys.”
The 26-year-old Ratliff is an experienced punt returner. He has returned 72 career punts for 540 yards (7.5 avg.). His longest punt return in the NFL went 49 yards.
The Bucs are averaging 9.0 yards per punt return this season. Their top return specialist, Mark Jones, was averaging 11.9 yards per return before he suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn patellar tendon) vs. Detroit.
Tampa Bay has used wide receiver Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway, and CB Phillip Buchanon to return punts in Jones' place. However, all three of those players have averaged just 6.8 yards per return on 16 attempts.
In addition to those roster moves, the Bucs signed WR Brian Clark to their eight-man practice squad and released CB Darrell Hunter.
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