Bucs release Derrick Ward

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris announced after Tuesday's practice that running back Derrick Ward has been released.

"After practice today we were able to notify Mr. Ward," Morris said. "It's just like any other profession when it is time for you to depart. It's not a surprise anytime in our profession anytime we tell you to go -- can't say you're surprised. You have every day to go out there and prove yourself."

Ward was signed to a big free-agent deal last year after rushing for 1,025 yards the year before with the New York Giants and the initial plan was for him to be the No. 1 running back. But Cadillac Williams came back from injury and firmly grabbed the starting job.

Ward rushed for just 409 yards last season after signing a four-year, $17 million contract with the Buccaneers. He rushed for one touchdown and also had two receiving scores.

In a dismal preseason, he didn't score any points with the coaches by pouting. The Bucs have a healthy Williams, a promising prospect in Kareem Huggins and they always can fall back on Earnest Graham, who can play fullback or tailback.

Morris called Ward into his office after practice Tuesday and said he and the running back "shook hands, gave each other a hug and said good luck in our future endeavors."

"He was a consummate pro," Morris said, adding that releasing Ward now -- rather than during this weekend's final cuts -- could enhance the 30-year-old's chances of landing with another team before clubs set rosters for the regular season opener.

Morris also said the move does not mean Huggins, who's from the coach's hometown of Irvington, N.J., and has rushed for a team-best 97 yards on 19 carries this preseason, has won a job.

"Kareem has to go out and play. I look forward to seeing him go out against Houston," the coach said, looking ahead to Thursday night's preseason finale against the Texans. "He still has to prove himself every week. Still has to prove himself against Houston."

In other moves, receiver Terrence Nunn was waived, and linebacker Jon Alston was placed on injured reserve to get down to the limit for the final preseason game.

Pat Yasinskas covers the NFC South for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.