A Day Of Firsts For Cox
Katherine Smith, The Tampa Tribune, published 22 November 2004

Torrie Cox is sending his mother a present. The ball from his first NFL touchdown, which followed his first NFL interception, will travel to Miami for a prominent place in the Cox trophy case. Of course, some room will have to be made first. ``Anything I get, I send home to my mom,'' Cox said. ``So that will be another [item] she has to put up. I've got so many things in there because I've been making plays and having fun playing football for so long.''

Cox had mostly been making plays on special teams as the Bucs' kickoff returner this season until the past several games, when his production on defense has increased with more time at the nickelback position. In the fourth quarter of Sunday's 35-3 victory, Cox picked off Tim Rattay's pass intended for 49ers receiver Rashaun Woods and ran it back 55 yards for the score. ``We were in man-to-man coverage and the receiver was kind of tight to the line,'' Cox said, ``so I figured he was going down because we were looking at the play and practicing the play all week. It just so happened I was on that play. As he was down, I just stepped in front of him and then saw all green and one of my players getting ready to make a big hit.''

That player was defensive end Simeon Rice, who leveled San Francisco guard Justin Smiley as he tried to catch Cox. ``I saw my little brother running to score, so I had to go help him,'' Rice said. ``I saw the big boys coming after him, so I had to go help him. I split his wig a little bit.''

Though he's listed as a second-year player, it's really only Cox's first. He sat out last season after tearing his left ACL in a preseason game. ``I never sat out a year of football before so that kind of inspired me to come back this year and work hard to work myself into the rotation and be in a position to make plays,'' Cox said.

Cox found his way onto the field at first as the kickoff returner when Frank Murphy tore his Achilles' tendon. But his defensive performances at practice opened the coach's eyes and while starting nickelback Mario Edwards struggled with consistency, Cox was rewarded with more playing time on defense. ``He's growing every week,'' defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. ``The work's getting done on the practice field, so it's good to see it happen on [game day]. That's our philosophy - you earn an opportunity to play and we give you the reps and then what [the player] does with it is up to them. He has capitalized and taken advantage of those opportunities.''

Cox isn't giving up his gig on special teams. At one point this season, Cox led the league in kickoff returns. Entering Sunday's game, he was second with a 27-yard return average. Against San Francisco, the 49ers only kicked off twice and Cox returned one of them for 18 yards. ``We still got one planned for the kickoff return,'' Cox said. ``It feels good just to be able to make a play for the team. That's what I'm about, making plays. I want to be able to help the team and put them in a position to win a game. Anytime I can do that, I love to be on the field.''