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'Hard Knocks' star Bullough facing numbers game

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Riley Bullough is caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Riley Bullough is caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Aug. 22, 2017

Bucs undrafted rookie linebacker Riley Bullough is perhaps the surprise star of HBO's "Hard Knocks" and has been productive in two preseason games, but Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Tuesday that he's caught in a numbers game competing for a backup spot on the Tampa Bay roster.

The Bucs are likely to keep five linebackers on their 53-man roster, and Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander and rookie Kendell Beckwith have three of those locked up, with returning players Adarius Glanton and Cameron Lynch competing with second-year pro Devante Bond and rookies for the last spots.

"It's a numbers game everywhere," Koetter said. "Riley's doing fine. He's an excellent communicator, a tough guy, good in the run game. It's going to come down to numbers. We can't just say we have 10 linebackers we want to keep. It has to add up to 53, and you have to have two-deep in a game when you only have 46. Riley's doing fine. He's improving. When he's out there, he makes plays. He's fighting a numbers battle."

Bullough, whose long hair has earned him the nickname "Joe Dirt" on the HBO show, had five tackles in Thursday's win at Jacksonville, but all of them came in the final 5:09 of the game, with the third-string defense against the Jaguars' third-string offense, most of which wouldn't make the final cuts.

If the Bucs cut Bullough, they could try to bring him back as part of the team's 10-man practice squad, but they risk losing him to another team willing to claim him off waivers and put him on its 53-man roster.

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