NFC South: Byron Storer

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Very quietly, the Buccaneers waived fullback Byron Storer on Friday.

The Bucs have not announced the move to the media, but they reported the transaction to the NFL office Friday afternoon. Storer was waived with an injury settlement.

The move comes a few days after coach Raheem Morris said Storer had suffered a major setback in his recovery from last season's knee injury. This leaves the Bucs short on depth at fullback, where B.J. Askew is the starter, but there's not much after him.

Tailback Earnest Graham was forced into some fullback duty last season when both Askew and Storer were injured. The Bucs brought back veteran Jameel Cook after those injuries and he remains with the team. But the Bucs likely will look to bring in someone to compete with Cook for the backup role.

Brooks' career by the numbers

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- The crew over at ESPN Stats & Information assembled a nice packet on Derrick Brooks' time with the Buccaneers.

 Brooks

To start with, Brooks ranks first in team history in games (224), starts (221), Pro Bowl selections (11) and first-team All-Pro selections (five). Only four other defensive players in history played at least as many games for one franchise as Brooks did for the Bucs: Darrell Green (Redskins), Ed "Too Tall" Jones (Cowboys), Jim Marshall (Vikings) and Clay Matthews (Browns).

Brooks, the 2002 Associate Press Defensive Player of the Year, also had seven career defensive touchdowns.

With Brooks' departure from the Bucs, cornerback Ronde Barber remains as the only starter from the Super Bowl XXXVII championship team. Fullback Jameel Cook, who left and returned to the Bucs, and safety Jermaine Phillips, who appeared in that game as a special teams player, are the only other players still (sort of) with the Bucs.

Phillips can become a free agent Friday, and Cook's spot on the roster in 2009 is far from a lock with two fullbacks (B.J. Askew and Byron Storer) expected back from injuries.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- This might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but it could be the best injury update the Bucs have had in a long time.

Fullback B.J. Askew, who hasn't played since Week Three, fully participated in practice Wednesday. That's a pretty strong sign Askew might be ready to return Sunday against Minnesota. Askew had been sidelined with a hamstring injury and the Bucs struggled to find consistency in the running game without him.

Backup Byron Storer had moved into Askew's starting role, but went out for the season with a knee injury in the sixth game. The Bucs have been using Jameel Cook as their fullback since then.

But getting Askew back would upgrade the blocking and likely be a big boost for Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Cadillac Williams.

Evening roundup

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
6:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Here's a look at the day's headlines around the NFC South.

SAINTS

Receiver Marques Colston (thumb) and tight end Jeremy Shockey (sports hernia) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday. Here's the full rundown on the injury situation. Coach Sean Payton told the Carolina media in a conference call that Shockey and Colston were close to being able to play last week, but Sunday's game in Charlotte has been the target for both players.

PANTHERS

Receiver D.J. Hackett was the only player who didn't practice -- at least to some degree -- Wednesday. Offensive linemen Jeff Otah and Ryan Kalil, who missed Sunday's loss at Tampa Bay, were among those practicing on a limited basis.

FALCONS

NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger compared rookie quarterback Matt Ryan to Peyton Manning, in terms of poise and confidence. I agree with Baldinger, in that regard, but think it's a little too early to begin comparing Ryan overall to one of the all-time greats after only six games. Then again, Ryan and the Falcons are 4-2. Manning and the Colts went 3-13 in his rookie season (1998).

BUCCANEERS

Receiver Joey Galloway at least got some limited practice in. Fullback B.J. Askew again was held out of practice and with Byron Storer out for the season, the Bucs signed fullback Jameel Cook. He's been with the Bucs previously and knows the system, so it wouldn't be a stretch to look for him to start Sunday against Seattle. That would allow the Bucs to move Earnest Graham, who filled in last week, to move back to tailback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Earnest Graham had a stellar performance Sunday as he switched over to fullback. But it doesn't sound like the Buccaneers have any plans to make his move from tailback permanent.

"You know what?" coach Jon Gruden said Monday. "Earnest is a heck of a tailback. We possibly could be looking for a fullback. Obviously moving a tight end into that position has always been a part of our contingency plan."

The Bucs are looking for a fullback with Byron Storer out for the season and B.J. Askew banged up. They'll likely sign a fullback in the next day or two. There could be some more movement in the Tampa Bay backfield.

Cadillac Williams is eligible to be activated from the physically unable to perform list. The Bucs have a three-week window in which they could activate Williams, who is recovering from a knee injury, and allow him to begin practicing. But it doesn't sound like the Bucs are ready to open that window just yet.

"We're going to keep looking at him," Gruden said. "We've said it time and time again: He's getting better and better and better. We're going to continue to work with him privately without activating him onto the 53-man roster immediately. But we really like what we've seen. It's been over a year now since he's had the injury. All of his hard work is going to pay off but it won't be this week that he's activated, but it could be coming soon."

There also is the possibility the Bucs could put Williams on the injured reserve list and delay his comeback until 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Apparently, it is the season to pay tribute to fullbacks in Tampa Bay.

At next week's game with Seattle, the Bucs will hold a ceremony for recently-retired fullback Mike Alstott, perhaps the most popular player in franchise history. After Sunday's victory against Carolina, they rolled out the red (and pewter) carpet for a fullback who didn't even begin the day as a fullback.

"I just want everybody to know that what Earnest Graham did today, although he didn't show up on the stat sheet, makes coaching worthwhile,'' coach Jon Gruden said after the Bucs defeated the Carolina Panthers 27-3. "I want to thank him for that.''

On a day when benched quarterback Jeff Garcia came back as the starter (he's already got the nod for next week), Gruden spent most of his postgame news conference raving about Graham.

 
 Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
 Bucs running back Earnest Graham only rushed for 11 yards, but he set the table for teammate Warrick Dunn's big day in a win over the Carolina Panthers.

"I'd just like to tell our fans what he did today is what this game is all about,'' Gruden said.

Gruden's right. If Tampa Bay fans didn't see what Graham did (and they may not have because the position is anonymous by its nature), they should at least know about it.

Graham was the reason Warrick Dunn rushed for 115 yards on 22 carries. That was 115 yards Graham could have had.

"I feel proud to block for Warrick,'' Graham said.

Try getting any other starting tailback around the league to say those words. You probably wouldn't have much luck. Graham has been Tampa Bay's starting tailback since the middle of last season and had established himself as the team's primary ball carrier.

But he voluntarily gave up carries for bruises when Byron Storer, Tampa Bay's only active fullback, went down with a knee injury early in the game. B.J. Askew, the usual starting fullback, was inactive because of an injury.

Gruden's initial reaction was to turn to the contingency plan the Bucs have in place every week in case they run short of fullbacks. He, and the rest of the offensive coaching staff, began getting tight end Alex Smith ready to go in at fullback.

That's when Graham approached Gruden on the sideline.

"I came to Gruden and said, 'If you need a fullback, I'm your fullback,' '' Graham said.

The Bucs instantly scratched the contingency plan and prevented further complications for their offense. If Smith had to play fullback, reserves Jerramy Stevens and John Gilmore would have had to take on more duties at tight end. With Graham at fullback, all the Bucs had to do was plug in Dunn, a 10,000-yard career rusher.

Dunn, who returned to the Bucs as Graham's backup after six seasons with Atlanta, got 21 of his carries after the first quarter and had six carries for 45 yards in the fourth quarter.

"The guy sacrificed his day to get in there and block and he did a great job,'' Dunn said. "He was reading it the right way, putting hits on guys. I'm speechless a little bit because of what he sacrificed for his football team today. That's one of the most unselfish acts I've seen on a football team in a long time.''

Gruden certainly wasn't speechless after Graham helped the Bucs get to 4-2. The coach even rated the performance ahead of any by Alstott, who was known more as a runner and receiver than a blocker.

"Earnest Graham stepped up so unselfishly and played as good as we've had a fullback play since I've been here,'' Gruden said.

At 5-foot-9 and 225 pounds, Graham doesn't have the prototypical size of a fullback. But, despite his status as a starting tailback, he does have some experience at the position. Before injuries elevated him to a starting job last year, Graham had taken lots of practice reps at fullback (while also working as the third-string tailback and a regular on special teams) in his first three seasons with the Bucs.

On Sunday, Graham looked like a Pro Bowl fullback.

"He didn't just go into the hole today and just curl up,'' Gruden said. "He laid himself into the hole with as much authority as he runs the football with.''

Graham finished with five carries for 11 yards. Although he did score a 1-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, did he miss carrying the ball?

"No, I didn't miss it,'' Graham said. "I feel proud to be able to block for Warrick. It was the most fun I've had in a game, period. I had a blast.''

The arrangement probably was temporary. The Bucs will evaluate the condition of Askew and Storer on Monday. If either is expected to still be out, the Bucs probably will go out and sign a fullback.

But they'll always know they can turn to their starting tailback.

"If I've got to do it, I'll do it,'' Graham said.

Bucs running out of fullbacks

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
1:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Bucs are up 14-0, but they might have to protect that lead without a fullback.

Byron Storer just came off the field after being injured while chasing down a Carolina kick return. We're told he has an injured right knee and his return is questionable. The Bucs don't have another active fullback. B.J. Askew, the usual starter, is inactive due to injury.

The Bucs may have to use one of their tailbacks or tight ends at fullback.

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