Running back Derrick Ward's sluggish preseason has cost him a spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster.
Ward was released Tuesday as the Bucs reduced their roster to the 75-man limit. Wide receiver Terrence Nunn also was released, while linebacker John Alston was put on injured reserve.
Ward came to the Bucs as a free agent during the 2009 offseason, but never showed the form that made him a 1,000-yard rusher with the New York Giants in 2008.
In addition to starter Cadillac Williams, the team will look to versatile running back Earnest Graham, second-year pro Kareem Huggins and others to contribute to the running game, Bucs coach Raheem Morris said.
"It was more about the resurgence of Mr. Cadillac and Mr. Earnest Graham and where the team is going - our plan and our direction and how we want to go about business,'' Morris said of the decision to release Ward. "It was more about the skill level of our team and where we need to go and how we see our team fitting right now.
"We've got Cadillac and Earnest Graham back there, who can carry the ball for us as well. And we have a little spark plug in (Huggins), who's able to provide a little different look for us. And, also, there are the other guys battling, who we want to see run the rest of the preseason.''
Ward ran 114 times for 409 yards last season with the Bucs, but placed himself on the roster bubble with a lethargic 12-carry, 20-yard effort in the mud against Miami in the preseason opener.
Ward guaranteed he'd play a great game the next week against Kansas City, but failed to live up to his promise, running five times for 11 yards before leaving the game with a concussion.
Ward bounced back and ran a little better on a couple of carries in the Bucs' third preseason game against Jacksonville, but the team decided it could rely on others instead.
Though Huggins could emerge as the biggest beneficiary of Ward's release, Graham's role, particularly in terms of carrying the ball, is almost sure to increase.
"We look forward to expanding his role and letting him play for us,'' Morris said. "He's done some short yardage, done some goal line. We'll just do more of those things with him and use his versatility a little bit more.''
Graham, the starting fullback, did just that against the Chiefs, carrying the ball once from the tailback position in the red zone and catching a 2-yard touchdown pass from the fullback position.
Huggins, who according to Morris has not been named the backup, has 19 carries for 97 yards and two receptions for 16 yards this preseason.