TAMPA — Injuries are piling up for the Bucs at safety and on the defensive line. They attempted to replenish those positions Sunday by signing rookie safety Micah Abernathy and defensive tackle Shane Bowman.
To make room for those players, the Bucs officially announced the release of veteran guard/center Evan Smith and placed receiver Bryant Mitchell on injured reserve. Mitchell tore his Achilles tendon in Friday night’s 30-28 preseason loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
The Bucs have lost two safeties — D’Cota Dixon and Orion Stewart — to season-ending injuries. Justin Evans still is on the active/Physically Unable to Perform list with toe/foot injuries, although coach Bruce Arians said he Evans has begun running full speed and could return soon. Rookie Mike Edwards and Kentrell Brice are currently dealing with injuries.
Abernathy was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Vikings out of Tennessee, where he played in 44 games during his collegiate career. He recorded 128 total tackles, 11 passes defensed, 7.0 tackles for loss and two interceptions for the Vols. He is the grandson of the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, a civil rights leader and best friend of Rev. Martin Luther King.
The Bucs now have nine defensive backs on the roster from Southeastern Conference schools.
Bowman was signed in part due to the knee injury of his former Washington Huskies teammate, Vita Vea. Bowan played in 39 games for the Huskies before signing as a college free agent with the Jaguars this off-season. Vea will at least miss the entire preseason with a left knee injury.
Smith was among the longest tenured Bucs, having played the last five seasons after signing as a free agent from the Packers. He overcame surgeries on both hips to play in Friday night’s game at Pittsburgh with the second-team offense at center.