Nugent's kicking problems continue
Mike Nugent kicked himself more accurately than he did the ball after his team's 16-13 loss against Washington. Nugent missed his first two field goal attempts, at which point he was 0-for-4 for the season. Against the Redskins he missed from 49 and 48 yards. In the opener against Dallas, he missed from 46 yards and had a 38-yard attempt blocked.
"Easily the worst (stretch of my career), to be honest with you," Nugent said. "I am hitting the ball well. I'm just not putting it through. I didn't do my job today."
Nugent did make a 37-yard field goal prior to halftime, and later connected on a 22-yard kick, but he admits he has struggled this season. One of the primary reasons Nugent was signed during the offseason was because of his ability to make long-distance field goals. Nugent beat out Matt Bryant, who missed most of training camp because of a hamstring injury. Bryant was cut, but whenever Nugent has been called upon to make a long kick, he has missed.
"We still had a chance to win the ballgame even with the two missed field goals and it's our job to win football games," Raheem Morris said. "He'll get his opportunity again and we've got to make those things. There is no doubt about it."
Smith fumbles away opportunity
Clifton Smith believed he had a firmer grasp on football heading into this season. Smith fumbled in four consecutive games as a rookie last year but worked all summer on ball security, and was positive his problems were gone.
However, Tampa Bay faced third-and-1 at its 28-yard line with 55 seconds remaining when Smith fumbled after being hit by Washington DE Jeremy Jarmon. The ball was recovered by S Chris Horton, ending Tampa Bay's hopes for a comeback.
"Every time I step on the field and have the ball in my hand, I hold the hopes and dreams of the team," Smith said. "I just let everybody down. I didn't give (my team) a chance today. I'll take it."
Smith refused to offer any excuses for his fumbling woes. He had only carried once Sunday prior to the miscue, and although RB Cadillac Williams had been playing well, Morris said he prefers to use Smith in two-minute drill situations.
"He got the first down," Morris said. "He picked it up. He just has to hold onto the football. That's his job. That's the situation."
Jackson rejoins team today
Tanard Jackson will rejoin the team today after serving a four-game suspension. The NFL suspended Jackson during training camp for violating its substances of abuse policy. He was ineligible to participate in practice and games during his suspension.
Jackson's presence was missed as Tampa Bay's defense ranked second-to-last in the league prior to Sunday's game against Washington. His return will help a secondary that recently lost starter Jermaine Phillips for the season with a broken thumb.
Anwar Richardson, The Tampa Tribune 5 October 2009