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Bucs give undrafted free agents a chance

Defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert is among four undrafted free agents to make the Bucs roster.
Defensive tackle DaVonte Lambert is among four undrafted free agents to make the Bucs roster.
Published Sep. 6, 2016

TAMPA — Coach Dirk Koetter told Bucs players before training camp to compete and the best players would have a spot on the roster, regardless of where or if they were drafted. He kept his word by giving jobs to four undrafted free agents: DE Channing Ward, DT DaVonte Lambert, TE Alan Cross and T Leonard Wester, who made the leap from Division II in college to the NFL.

"I think the main thing on that is it just speaks to — (general manager) Jason (Licht) saw that we wanted to keep the guys that played the best in training camp," Koetter said. "As a coach or as a player, that's really all you can ask for. We talk to our guys about competing and the guys we felt like did the best over the course of training camp, they stuck."

Cross won a job over Dan Vitale, the sixth-round pick from Northwestern who was claimed off waivers by the Bills. "He's a tough guy and he's a smart guy and he competes and he's very versatile," Koetter said. "So all things that we're looking for in every player."

That versatility was a strong reason for keeping Lambert and Ward. "Both guys can play inside or outside," Koetter said. "When they got their chances in the preseason games, they made plays, they flew around. Young, defensive linemen that you get a chance to develop, that can run and hit, those guys are hard to find. You just look around the league and big, strong, tough guys who can move, those guys are not just walking around everywhere."

Wester, from Missouri Western, will be a developmental tackle.

"Good players come from all kinds of places," Koetter said. "Whether a guy comes from Division II or whatever, there's good players everywhere in this country. Leonard, we think has got a chance to develop into a really solid player at tackle."

CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN: Koetter announced that players have voted for team captains for the 2016 season, choosing DT Gerald McCoy and LB Lavonte David on defense, QB Jameis Winston and WR Vincent Jackson on offense and WR Russell Shepard on special teams.

Those five will have a "C" on their uniforms as part of the honor — for McCoy and Jackson, it's their fifth year as a captain, so they get a gold "C" patch on their uniforms. It's David's third year as a captain and Shepard's second, with Winston the only new captain, replacing retired G Logan Mankins.

"It's always an honor to be recognized by your peers," McCoy said. "There's really nothing bigger than that … standing out as a leader. Not everybody is called to be that, but when you are, I think it's right that you step up and be that. My teammates are recognizing me as that, so now it's my job to make sure I don't disappoint."

The Bucs will also have a sixth weekly captain that rotates in with the other five — for the opener at the Falcons on Sunday, that will be C Joe Hawley, who played in Atlanta before joining the Bucs last season.

"That's one of the biggest honors you can get in this league," Shepard said. "It's truly your peers. It's the guys you come here and work with every day, the guys you admire, guys that look up to you. It's really an honor. My mom didn't know what (the C) was last year, but hopefully she knows what it is this year."

SAFETY MEASURE: The Bucs kept four safeties and only three are likely to be active on Sunday. So they are cross-training CB Josh Robinson to play safety.

"There's a chance. We have to cross-train guys," Koetter said.

INJURIES: LB Devante Bond was the only player who did not practice Monday.

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