TAMPA — Trying to make the most of the last spots on the 53-player roster, the Bucs traded backup S Kelcie McCray to the Chiefs on Thursday in exchange for Rishaw Johnson, a backup offensive guard.
"We said we'll continue to look at players we think can help our football team … so we're pretty excited about getting Rishaw Johnson here into the mix," coach Lovie Smith said.
Johnson, 25, is 6 feet 3 and 313 pounds and has limited NFL playing experience — he started the regular-season finale for Kansas City last year, playing all 72 snaps as the team rested key starters in advance of the playoffs. Before that, he had just three offensive snaps in two games in his career, having spent time on the Seahawks' practice squad in 2012. He started his college career at Ole Miss but was dismissed for a violation of team rules in September 2010 and finished at Division II California University of Pennsylvania.
McCray, also 25, had 12 tackles for the Bucs last season. He was signed off waivers from the Dolphins early in the season. He was best-known for forcing a late fumble from Lions WR Calvin Johnson near the goal line to clinch the Bucs' win at Detroit, but he was on the outside looking in as part of a deep defensive secondary. He had played a team-high 16 snaps on special teams in each of the preseason games.
Johnson is the third offensive lineman the Bucs have added in two days, after T Edawn Coughman and G R.J. Mattes. Of the three, Johnson might be best equipped to make it past Tuesday's cut to 75 players and challenge for a job on the 53-player roster as a backup lineman.
WORDS STING: Tim Wright admits he has struggled at times blocking and there have been a few dropped balls in practice. But what he wasn't prepared for was the criticism aimed at his play by Smith, who said Sunday the tight end "hasn't played well" during the preseason.
"It was a little bit of news, but at the end of the day it comes with the game," Wright said. "You just try to get better. You try to watch film and correct the mistakes that you made. There are some things I'm doing that are new so I've got to give myself a chance, too, but I'm coming along.
"My whole week, it is what it is. That's what was said. But one day at a time, I go out there and just try to be great. That's what I focus on."
Wright, a second-year pro from Rutgers who converted from receiver to tight end last season, caught 54 passes for 571 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie. The Bucs like the mismatches he can create going against safeties and linebackers.
"When you think of tight end, that's what you think of," Wright said. "The game is evolving to that pass catcher now and some of the things I did last year. But when I first got switched, I knew that was going to be an uphill battle for me, trying to put on some weight and block guys who have been doing it their whole life at defensive end. But it's a fun thing, it's a challenge, and I like challenges."
Smith clarified his remarks Thursday, saying Wright had merely had a bad week.
"I love Tim Wright as a football player," Smith said. "You go through spells when you don't play your best ball for a short period of time. When I talked then, it was a little period of time where Tim hadn't played his best ball. But you look at the big picture? Tim has been a good football player for us. We like what he's been able to do. We've talked going forward about what we'll be able to do with him. You can split him out, the matchups you have with safeties and linebackers.
"You can catch me at any time and I might be disappointed in a player. But big picture? No. There's no disappointment in Tim Wright. We like him being on our football team."
INJURIES/ETC: DL Da'Quan Bowers, DE Will Gholston, CB Mike Jenkins and RB Mike James will not play Saturday at Buffalo. … The Bucs signed Mattes, who was released by the Patriots in June. DE James Ruffin has been waived.