Former Pro Bowler Clifton Smith released in Bucs' roster moves
The Bucs have released return man/running back Clifton Smith as the team continues to tweak its roster heading into the season opener.
Smith was one of two casualties, along with offensive lineman Derek Hardman, allowing the team to claim offensive lineman Ted Larsen (Patriots) and running back Kregg Lumpkin (Packers) off waivers.
Smith ranked seventh in the NFL last season in kick-return average, but the Bucs have a surplus of options in the return game (Sammie Strougher, Preston Parker, Micheal Spurlock).
Smith missed the first two games of the preseason as he was battling knee pain related to gout, but he failed to stand out after returning to the lineup in the third preseason game. Smith's most recent physical ailment came on the heels of his placement on injured reserve last season after suffering the second of two concussions.
The Bucs' other options in the return game each have an advantage over Smith in that they are considered more legitimate options as position players, with Stroughter, Spurlock and Parker each able to contribute as receivers. Smith, meanwhile, has not had great success as a running back and did not figure to be a factor in the team's offense.
And the Bucs won't necessarily have a dropoff in the return game. Stroughter ranked one spot ahead of Smith, sixth in the NFL, on kick returns last season, averaging 29.5 yards (on 20 fewer attempts, however). Among his returns was a 97-yard touchdown.
The release of Smith was prompted by the team's needs in other places. Larsen, a sixth-round pick of the Patriots in April, will serve as the primary backup to starting center Jeff Faine. Lumpkin, meanwhile, is a big back with receiving ability who adds depth at a positon that is a bit thin.