Previewing the Buccaneer special teams for 2010
An Englishman, a Scotsman, an Irishman, and a German were all walking down the road. No not a gag, just a possible combination of former Buccaneer kickers who could reminisce about their times in Tampa Bay training camps - can you name a player to fit into those national categories?
For this upcoming training camp though, it will be another new combination of kicker and punter from this time last year, a season that saw three punters from Josh Bidwell through Dirk Johnson to Sam Paulescu. None of that trio are here this time round and it should be 6th round pick Brent Bowden who handles the punting duties this time round unless he has a seriously awful camp and pre-season.
There is a precedent for this in Buccaneer annals. In 1988, Ray Perkins used a 4th round pick (the days when there were 12 rounds in both the draft and boxing title fights), on Michigan's Monte Robbins. He never even made it out of camp or ever into the NFL.
Connor Barth took over the kicking duties at mid-season last year following the release of Mike Nugent and went 14-19 on fieldgoals including becoming only the fourth player in NFL history to ever make three 50+ yarders in the same game.
He will have notional competition from undrafted rookie Hunter Lawrence in camp but it is Barth's job to keep or dramatically lose. Andrew Economos returns for his fourth full season snapping, a role that every NFL team seems to employ a specialist for these days.
The return job should belong to Clifton Smith but he still has the concussion question mark hanging over him until he gets back on the field to shake off that disgusting hit from the Panthers' Dante Wesley that belonged in the Dutch World Cup final tactics book.
Behind Smith is the legendary Micheal Spurlock. And a note to so-called Buccaneer fans - if you are going to honour Spurlock properly for becoming the first Buc to return a kickoff for a touchdown, do him the justice of spelling his first name properly - it's Micheal.
The Bucs have the likes of Jon Alston and Niko Koutouvides notionally listed as linebackers but who are special teams' coverage experts and they added Cody Grimm and Dekoda Watson in the latter rounds of the draft for similar reasons. All of the secondary outside of Aqib Talib seem to play on the coverage units too.
These special teams previews used to always end with a plea for someone to break the kick return curse. And then just like London buses, three came along all at once with Smith and Samme Stroughter following Spurlock into the endzone history books.
And now trivia buffs, did you get Vince Abbott (1985), Rob Hart (2002), Neil O'Donoghue (1979-81) and Ralf Kleinmann (2003) for your European kicking quartet?
Congratulations, you know your stuff and you win a night out with JP Peterson. Anyone who didn't, doesn't and gets a night out with Ian Beckles.
You've been great - enjoy Jane Weidlin.
Paul Stewart, TBO.com, July 2010