TAMPA — The short-lived and ill-fated Dexter Jackson era officially ended Monday when the Bucs waived last year's second-round pick.
It was a tacit admission that the swift but ineffective kick returner from Appalachian State, who never caught a pass as a Buccaneer, had been a bust and was not going to fit into the 2009 offense.
Coach Raheem Morris was kind and tactful in discussing the decision to release Jackson, a move that brought the roster down to the mandatory 75-player limit ahead of today's deadline.
"He just didn't fit what we were ready to get done," Morris said. "I've got a lot of respect for Dexter. He did everything I asked. He worked his tail off. We just went a different direction."
The 5-foot-9, 182-pounder hurt his ankle in the preseason opener at Tennessee and hasn't played since. But the injury wasn't the deciding factor. Morris explained that Jackson got an ample chance to prove his worth as a receiver but didn't fit into plans as a potential slot receiver, a position that requires catching passes in traffic.
"I think we gave everybody an opportunity on this team to show up as a wideout, to show up as a return man, to show up in every situation to compete," Morris said. " … Some of it's due to other people coming along, other people emerging. The kid's a great kid. And I can't take away from what he did. … But as an organization, it was time to go another direction. … Did he fit our mold? No, he didn't fit what we wanted to do."
Jackson caught the attention of then-Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who wanted a fast return man, even though Jackson hadn't excelled in that role in college. With the Bucs, he played in seven regular-season games, averaging 23.4 yards per kickoff and just 4.9 yards per punt return. He was replaced and then overshadowed by undrafted free agent rookie Clifton Smith, who averaged 27.6 yards per kick return and 14.1 yards per punt return en route to the Pro Bowl.
Bryant, Clayton practice: Injured starting WRs Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton returned to the practice field Monday, though Morris said that neither will play in Friday's exhibition finale against Houston. Bryant has been out since the second week of camp when he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Clayton re-aggravated a hamstring strain in the second exhibition at Jacksonville and sat out Thursday's game against Miami.
"The guys have great energy; we're all preparing for Dallas (the Sept. 13 opener)," Clayton said.
He said he couldn't wait to get the first-team offense going with Bryant against Dallas. "We put in a lot of work in the offseason. We have a chemistry."
Miscellany: Expect to see plenty of the two Joshes — Freeman and Johnson — against Houston. Morris hasn't settled on a rotation but plans to use his rookie and second-year quarterback plenty. … The running game drew kudos from Morris on Monday: "To see Earnest Graham, Cadillac (Williams), Derrick Ward, Peanut (Clifton Smith), Kareem Huggins, B.J. Askew in the preseason all have some form of a breakout run, all have some kind of run you would love to see against Dallas, to have that kind of offensive line … that excites me."