Defensive back Ross Cockrell among Bucs’ initial cuts

Notes | The veteran cross-trained throughout training camp and was a special teams contributor during the team’s Super Bowl 55 run.
Ross Cockrell (43) recorded one tackle in the Bucs' preseason opener against the Dolphins.
Ross Cockrell (43) recorded one tackle in the Bucs' preseason opener against the Dolphins. [ JASON BEHNKEN | AP ]
Published Aug. 16, 2022|Updated Aug. 16, 2022

TAMPA — The Bucs needed to trim their roster to 85 players before Tuesday’s deadline, and defensive back Ross Cockrell — a special teams member and part of the Super Bowl 55 championship run — was among those released.

The team also waived tight end Ben Beise, offensive lineman Curtis Blackwell and wideout Kameron Brown. Offensive lineman Jonathan Hubbard and outside linebacker JoJo Ozougwu were waived with injury designations.

“We thought enough of Ross to give him a chance to get on with somebody else, so that’s why we did it so early,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. “But he did a lot of things for us in the past.”

Cockrell cross-trained with the cornerbacks and safeties throughout training camp but found himself in a competition with new defensive backs — like safeties Logan Ryan and Keanu Neal — as well as the returning players. He first joined the Bucs in September 2020 as a member of their practice squad.

Before the Bucs, Cockrell spent time with the Bills, Steelers, Giants and Panthers. He started a career-high 16 regular-season games with Pittsburgh in 2016 — plus another three in postseason — and had 11 starts with Carolina in 2019.

Cockrell played in 29 regular-season games with the Bucs over the past two seasons, starting six. He also played nearly half of the Bucs’ special teams snaps during their six playoff games over that span, including more than 80% in last season’s wild-card game against the Eagles.

The Bucs next have to trim their roster to 80 players by Aug. 23, before setting a 53-man roster by the 4 p.m. deadline Aug. 30.

Nassib impressed during last Bucs stint

Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson didn’t think he maximized his long arms and frame as a rookie in 2019. But he watched and learned from Carl Nassib as the defensive end/outside linebacker used length “while still attacking,” Nelson said.

Nelson tried to insert that into his own skillset the last two seasons. Nassib left the Bucs in 2020 after signing a three-year deal with the Raiders, but they released him in March.

Nassib agreed to terms with the Bucs on Monday.

“I’m excited to have somebody that’s long and tall like me,” Nelson said. “And we can work on some things and see what we can pick off each other’s brains.”

Bowles — named the Bucs’ defensive coordinator in January 2019, ahead of Nassib’s second season with the team — said Nassib has versatility to pass-rush from the outside and play inside during nickel packages. He’s also “tough in the run,” Bowles said.

“He brings a lot of energy, brings a lot of toughness, and he understands the system and he was comfortable in it,” Bowles said.

Odds and ends

Wide receivers Mike Evans (hamstring) and Russell Gage (hamstring) aren’t expected to practice this week in Tennessee, Bowles said. … The joint sessions Wednesday and Thursday will be similar to last week’s practices with Miami, with the exception of one or two different drills. … Rachaad White, who the Bucs used as a kick returner to start Saturday’s game, said he’s “very comfortable catching the ball and running” and “fine” with the transition. He returned two kicks and four punts across two seasons at Arizona State. … Outside linebacker Cam Gill tweeted Tuesday his “surgery went good.” He sustained a Lisfranc injury Saturday.

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