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Bucs CB Mack shows enough to stick

Elbert Mack, who had a preseason interception against the Patriots, got the call that he made the roster.

BRIAN CASSELLA | Times

Elbert Mack, who had a preseason interception against the Patriots, got the call that he made the roster.

TAMPA — Elbert Mack sat nervously on Saturday in his temporary home — a tiny hotel room — hoping his stay in Tampa wasn't going to be, well, temporary.

The undrafted free-agent cornerback never got the dreaded call summoning him to One Buc Place with playbook in hand, which meant one thing: He was officially a Buccaneer.

"I tried to relax and take my mind off of it," said Mack, who led college football with eight interceptions last season at Troy. "I just left it up to God and said we'll see how everything goes."

When a call finally did come, it was defensive backs coach Raheem Morris calling to share the good news.

Mack received an even bigger endorsement Sunday when the Bucs released CB Eugene Wilson, a veteran acquired in free agency who also can play safety. That move indicates the Bucs are happy with Mack's play. He is the fourth cornerback, just behind rookie Aqib Talib.

During the preseason, Mack, 5 feet 10 and 175 pounds, was a solid cover man who is willing to be physical. Though he consistently made head-turning plays, Mack never felt assured of a roster spot ahead of Saturday's cut from 75 to 53 players.

"You never know what's enough," he said. "It's just one of those things where I felt like I put my best foot forward and hopefully I'd be rewarded for it."

CB Ronde Barber said Mack deserved his spot: "You look for those kinds of stories every year. You look for a guy who makes it despite the odds. Mack is a good player. He just had to show it, and he did that all preseason."

HURRICANE WATCH: The NFL has revealed no specific contingency plans with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast, but the Saints left New Orleans for Indianapolis over the weekend, a week before they are to host the Bucs for the opener.

Plans call for the team to return to New Orleans for a Saturday walk-through at the Superdome, provided the storm does not cause widespread damage. The viability of playing at the Superdome on Sunday is unclear.

"I just pray the storm would head out to sea and that no one gets hurt," coach Jon Gruden said.

LINE A BIT LIGHT: The Bucs retained just eight offensive linemen after Saturday's cuts, including G Davin Joseph, out for several weeks with a broken foot.

To address the lack of depth, the Bucs used the roster spot created by Wilson's release to claim T James Lee off waivers a day after he was waived by the Browns. The South Carolina State product can also play guard.

"We're confident that the 53 guys here have earned the right to be here," Gruden said. "But that doesn't mean that we're done looking."

That applies to all teams, including the Lions. They signed LB Ryan Nece on Sunday, a day after his release from the Bucs. He becomes just the latest former Tampa Bay player to join former Bucs assistant Rod Marinelli in Detroit, where former Bucs linebackers coach Joe Barry is the defensive coordinator.

BUCS BITS: Gruden said S Sabby Piscitelli (knee) participated in Sunday's brief morning walk-through and should play in the opener. … Rookie RB Clifton Smith, released in Saturday's cuts, was signed to the practice squad.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Bucs CB Mack shows enough to stick 08/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2008 3:15pm]
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