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Bucs Return from Bye in Good Health – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ROOKIE MAKES IMPRESSION: The Buccaneers began the season with nine rookies on their 53-man roster, including all eight of their 2018 draft picks. On Tuesday, that number hit 10 digits, as nearly 20 percent of that roster is now comprised of NFL newcomers.

The 10th rookie in the mix is defensive end Demone Harris, an undrafted player out of Buffalo who signed with the Buccaneers in May. Harris had spent the first five weeks of the season on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, but as preparations began for the Week Six contest in Atlanta, the team decided to promote the rookie and release veteran Will Clarke.

Since Clarke was healthy at the time of his release and the move was a one-for-one switch at the same position, it stands to reason that Harris was able to impress the coaching staff on the practice field and emerge as the better option. Harris isn’t sure if it was some particular skill or strength of his that prompted the decision, but he thinks the key is hard work.

“It’s obvious something they’re seeing upstairs, so I’m just going to try to continue to do what I do and even raise that to a higher level,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s anything in particular. The thing I can control is effort and I just try to give 100 percent out there every day.”

Clarke was part of an eight-man D-Line rotation during his three games on the active roster this season, though he wasn’t seeing a huge chunk of playing time. He was in for 13 snaps in Week Two against Philadelphia but just five over the last two games combined. Early on, Harris will likely get a small share of work on defense, too, but he will have a chance to impress on special teams, as well. Whatever size the opportunity, he’s ready to seize it.

“It’s exciting,” said Harris of his promotion. “I’ve been waiting on this moment for a while now, just working to get to this point. I’m happy I got the call. I was just sitting at home yesterday and I got the call from my agent. I was really shocked and surprised but I’m also just trying to prepare even more for the opportunity so I can take advantage of it.”

As is the case every year, the practice squad is an excellent springboard to eventually playing on Sundays. The Bucs’ roster is littered with players who started out on a practice squad, from Cam Brate to Demar Dotson to Brent Grimes. That said, the realities of being a practice squad player, of devoting most of your time to running on scout teams, can add to the difficulty of showing what you can do with your own team’s playbook.

“I’m just learning from the other guys, really taking notes and trying to mimic what they do well and learn from their mistakes as well,” said Harris. “I haven’t run our defense in a couple weeks. To run the other team’s defense but also still pay attention, I think that’s been the biggest challenge, to try to stay engaged with our defense even though I’m doing the other teams’ defenses.”

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