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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs center Jeff Faine likely to be released



Veteran center Jeff Faine, one of the Bucs' most respected locker-room leaders, is likely to be released, perhaps before the start of the NFL's 2012 league year at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Faine, who was acquired by the Bucs when they gave him a six-year, $37 million contract before the 2008 season, turns 31 next month and is scheduled to earn nearly $6 million in base salary this fall with a salary-cap number approaching $8 million. The Bucs' decision to sign Jeremy Zuttah to a contract extension last week makes Faine expendable because the Bucs have long viewed Zuttah as a future center and have plans to play him there in 2012.

It's unclear what will become of Zuttah's left guard position under that scenario, but the Bucs appear determined to move forward without Faine. His departure would be a blow in the locker room, where he is one of only a handful of vocal veterans on the youngest team in the league.

On the field, Faine has been steady but has been prone to injury. He's missed 13 games in the past three seasons, though just one in 2011. In 2010, Faine missed eight games with various injuries. Faine turns 31 next month.

Zuttah is considered a good option at center not only because of his youth (he's 25), but also because he's viewed as an athletic and powerful lineman who can hold down the position for years to come. Zuttah played for the Bucs' new coach, Greg Schiano, at Rutgers University.

The Bucs have not given any official word on this story.

[Last modified: Monday, March 12, 2012 2:12pm]


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