Bucs cut Derrick Ward, others
The Bucs today cut running back Derrick Ward, linebacker Jon Alston and wide receiver Terrence Nunn as the team reached the NFL-mandated 75-man roster limit.
Minutes after finishing a practice with the Bucs in the morning, Ward was summoned to coach Raheem Morris' office at One Buc Place.
"We shook hands, we looked each other in the eye, we gave each other a hug and said, "Good luck in our further endeavors,'' Morris said.
Just like that, Ward's career with the Bucs ended.
A year after signing Ward to a 4-year, $17-million contract, and two years removed from his 1,025-yard season with the New York Giants, the Bucs decided to go another direction with the running back who never seemed to fit in with Tampa Bay.
Ward had the biggest hand in his release. He rushed for 50 yards on 21 carries, a 2.4 yard per carry average, in three preseason games. Following the preseason opener at Miami, he openly sulked about the playing conditions and lack of blocking.
Last season, after losing the starting tailback job to Cadillac Williams, Ward only rushed for 409 yards (3.6) with one touchdown. He missed some of the off-season workouts and reported to training camp overweight.
"It would be hard to say you're disappointed in what someone was able to do because of their skill level or whatever the case may be,'' Morris said. "It's just more about we've got to pick the best 53 men for our football team and we've got to make those decisions. They're never light, they're never easy ones to come by. If you spend time being disappointed in anyone for not being able to do what you want them to do, you end up wasting your time. It's just more about where we're going and our direction.''
That direction would be to keep former Hofstra running back Kareem Huggins, who leads the Bucs in rushing this preseason with 97 yards on 19 carries (5.1 yard avg). Morris said that fullback Earnest Graham also could serve as a backup tailback to Williams.
"It was less about the abandonment, it was more about everybody's skill level on our football team and where we need to go and how we see our team fitting right now,'' Morris said. "We've got Cadillac, who we're happy to have. And also we have Insurance Graham back there playing running back for us and he's able to carry the ball as well. And also, we have little the little sparkplug in Huggy and he's able to provide a little different look for us.
Morris said Ward wasn't surprised by his release.
"Just like any other profession, when it's time for you to depart, you're not as surprised in our profession anytime you're told to go,'' Morris said. "You can't say you're surprised. You've got every day to go out there prove yourself.''
Morris said Huggins is a popular player among teammates, but still has something to prove Thursday in the final preseason game at Houston.
"He's well-received in his room,'' Morris said. "You go ask Cadillac about it or you ask Earnest and all those guys, Clifton (Smith), even Derrick, they all love Kareem. They're all going to say a bunch of great things about him, a bunch of great things about his character and what he brings. But he still has to go out there and prove himself every week. He still has to go out here and prove himself against Houston and we look forward to giving the young man an opportunity to.''
-- RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer