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Three players in mix to replace Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Cody Grimm at safety

Corey Lynch, in his second season with the Bucs, had two interceptions in the preseason finale at Houston.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Corey Lynch, in his second season with the Bucs, had two interceptions in the preseason finale at Houston.

TAMPA — The choice is among a special teams standout who is married to a granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham; a practice squad player who went to an NAIA school in Ocala; and a guy once recruited by the head coach of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

None has started a game in the NFL, yet the Bucs consider all a better option at safety than Sabby Piscitelli, a former second-round draft pick who was released Tuesday.

Piscitelli was first off the bench after Cody Grimm broke his left fibula in the second quarter of the Bucs' 17-10 loss at Baltimore on Sunday. Four plays after Piscitelli entered the game, the Bucs blew a coverage that allowed tight end Todd Heap to haul in a 65-yard touchdown pass.

Coach Raheem Morris has taken responsibility for the breakdown, but he didn't hesitate to release Piscitelli, who Wednesday was claimed by the Browns, despite having to face quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Donovan McNabb and Drew Brees over the next five weeks.

"It's just neat to see how there's a lot of organizations that put everything on maybe your draft status or this or that," said safety Corey Lynch, one of the three contenders to replace Grimm.

"But this organization, they don't care. They just want the best 11 on the field. And if I'm not the best, if I'm on the sideline, that's good with me because we're winning. They just want to win, so that's cool to see."

Lynch, who is married to the former Sissy Graham, entered the league in 2008 as a sixth-round pick from Appalachian State. He played in seven games as a rookie with the Bengals, recording his first career interception against Brett Favre before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

The Bucs signed him from the Bengals' practice squad last season, and he has been limited to special teams. Last season he had a blocked punt and a blocked field goal, both against the Falcons.

"I've been working hard for three years, and I am just blessed to have an opportunity," Lynch, 25, said. "Obviously, we miss the people that are gone, but I feel blessed."

Lynch played well in the preseason, finishing with two interceptions at Houston, including one he returned 91 yards for a touchdown.

"He's showed his stuff in practice, in the preseason, and he has done a (great) job on special teams," defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. "We hope … that carries over onto defense. We hope to see it on Sunday."

Vince Anderson's journey to the NFL was circuitous. After his freshman year, he and 29 teammates at Nicholls State were suspended for three years by the NCAA for academic fraud involving a summer Internet course. Anderson paid for the course, but on the advice of an assistant coach, he never took it.

"It happened under my nose. I didn't even know what was going on, and I had to suffer the consequences," Anderson said.

Anderson, 25, thought his career was over until he learned about NAIA programs: "I'd never heard of NAIA."

The Lake City native spent a semester a Bacone College in Oklahoma but felt lost. He transferred to Webber International in Ocala but was derailed by a torn ACL and a hamstring injury.

A strong performance in the annual Texas vs. the Nation all-star game after the 2008 season earned him a shot with the Giants, and he spent a year on their practice squad before being released before training camp this season.

"A lot of guys from Nicholls, man, they just quit," Anderson said. "I was one of the few that kept pushing."

Eventually, Larry Asante, 22, will be in the safety mix. Morris recruited him to Kansas State out of Coffeyville Junior College, but he ended up at Nebraska.

"I was going to steal him and make him the Derrick Brooks of college football and move him to (weakside) linebacker," Morris said.

Asante, who will back up Sean Jones at strong safety, was a fifth-round pick of the Browns this year before being released before the start of the season and re-signed to their practice squad.

"Vince is an athletic guy; he's fast," Lake said. "He's a versatile guy, too. He could play a lot of positions for us. We like his toughness."

What they like most about these players is they aren't Piscitelli, who never seemed able to contribute on defense.

"It's never based on one individual play," Morris said. "It's just about what's best for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We went a different direction a couple different times. We're going to go a different direction this time."

Three players in mix to replace Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Cody Grimm at safety 12/01/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 10:44pm]
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