Bucs add fullback to practice squad in ex-Saint Austin Johnson
The Bucs haven't had a true fullback on roster this year, using their tight ends (and occasionally defensive tackles) for blocking assignments in the backfield, but they added one Wednesday, signing former Saints fullback Austin Johnson to their practice squad.
Johnson, 27, hasn't played in the NFL this season, but spent most of the last two seasons with the Saints, getting 12 carries and seven catches, as well as seven special-teams tackles. He has a fullback's size at 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and is eager for a chance to prove himself.
"It's a great opportunity," said Johnson, who will wear No. 46 for the Bucs. "I've been sitting around for a little bit, longer than I was hoping, and Tampa was definitely high on my list when I had my workouts. I love the organization here, what they have going here and it seems everyone is buying in. It's a great atmosphere."
The Bucs have played without their best blocking tight end, Luke Stocker, the last two games due to an ankle injury, though he returned to practice Wednesday, with veteran Brandon Myers and rookie Alan Cross picking up his role in his absence and Cameron Brate continuing to be one of the team's best pass-catching options.
Johnson has an interesting background -- he switched from fullback to linebacker after two seasons at Tennessee and led the team in tackles (81) and interceptions (four) as a senior in 2011. He's worked as a fullback in his time in the NFL and has many familiar faces from his days in Knoxville and New Orleans.
"Robert Ayers, I know him really well, Luke Stocker, we were really good friends and I was in his wedding," Johnson said. "Ryan Griffin, I was with him in New Orleans for a while and Cameron Brate was also there (for one week) when I was there. It's good to know some familiar faces."
Johnson watched the Bucs play his old team on Sunday, not realizing he'd be signing days later with a chance to play New Orleans again next week on the road.
"The biggest thing I can do is just do what they ask me to do -- I'm a hard-working guy that's going to get to work," he said "My main goal is to help make this team better. Any way I can help them make this playoff run, that's what I'm here for."