TAMPA — With top WRs Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton out with injuries, there's a big opportunity for other receivers to make an early case for making the roster.
Brian Clark, Sammie Stroughter and Maurice Stovall, along with Cortez Hankton and Mario Urrutia, have shown flashes in camp by making plays. They'll get an even bigger showcase in Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee, when the Bucs staff can learn more about them as they get reps with the first and second teams.
"It's going to give every receiver on this roster a legitimate shot of saying, 'Hey, I've got footage, I've got game film and it's going to give us a chance to evaluate and make a decision,' " GM Mark Dominik said.
Clark, a former Chamberlain High standout, came off the practice squad last year and played in nine games (one reception, 12 yards). "I'm approaching it the way I've approached preseason games the last four years, which is to show why I belong; that's my sole job," he said. "I'm better now because I have a little more experience about the emotional ups and downs of the NFL."
Coach Raheem Morris has praised Stroughter, a rookie seventh-round pick, often in camp, and Stroughter can't wait for the game.
"I'm foaming at the mouth," Stroughter said. "(Clayton and Bryant) set the example so high. We always have to be willing and ready to get in there."
Stovall, a 2006 third-round pick who has been snakebitten by injuries, said all he's focusing on is the present, and he wants to "prove to the coaches and my teammates and the fans out there that I belong in Tampa Bay."
STEP BACK: K Matt Bryant said he had an MRI exam on his troubling right hamstring Tuesday, and although there apparently isn't any serious problem, he's still frustrated about how long the injury has lasted.
Bryant limped off the field during the morning practice after aggravating the hamstring kicking field goals. He had missed several practices because of the injury and isn't sure when he'll return to practice this week, other than saying, "It's not an overnight thing."
Bryant is in a battle for his job after the Bucs signed Mike Nugent in the spring. If Bryant can't make it back for Saturday, Nugent would get an opportunity to put some distance between himself and Bryant.
"That's the roughest part about this, is that it's boring just standing there doing nothing," Bryant said. "I want to be out there, I want to kick, I want to do something. It's frustrating."
BIG IMPACT: DT Roy Miller, the third-round pick from Texas, was impressive again during a live red zone scrimmage. Morris said Miller has played well enough to be considered the third tackle behind starters Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims.
"If I was making a decision based on OTA (organized team activities) days and if I was making a decision based on these couple weeks of camp, you'd have to say Roy Miller is our third tackle right now and he's going to be in the rotation,'' Morris said. "And I hope it's true. Not knocking the other guys, but he's really stepped up and he's really played well.''
ON TRACK: Morris said Bryant had successful knee surgery Tuesday and "everything is right on schedule … three weeks." Bryant attended the afternoon practice while on crutches.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]