Commitment to Contain

November 8 – Tampa Bay's special teams unit will be on high alert on Sunday when they attempt to contain Lions WR Desmond Howard, who is one of the best punt and kick return specialists in the NFL. The Bucs are putting extra emphasis on Howard's play-making ability after their special teams allowed Packers CB Allen Rossum to return a punt 68-yards for the game-winning touchdown last Sunday.

Be afraid, be very afraid. That's been Tampa Bay's mentality this week while preparing for Lions WR Desmond Howard, who is one of the most dangerous punt and kick returners in NFL. On Sunday, Tampa Bay's coverage teams will attempt to contain Detroit's lethal weapon.

In fact, Detroit's special teams are the strength of the 0-7 Lions this season.

"They have explosive special teams," said Bucs head coach Tony Dungy. "They're capable of making something happen on any given opportunity."

Howard's résumé speaks for his play-making abilities as both a punt and kick return man.

Howard was a standout at the University of Michigan, where he won the Heisman Trophy in his senior year there. Howard entered the NFL as a first round draft selection of the Washington Redskins in 1992.

Howard spent three seasons in Washington before leaving Jacksonville in 1995. Howard had a brief say with the Jacksonville Jaguars and landed with the Green Bay Packers in 1996.

As a Packer, Howard helped Green Bay earn a trip to and win Super Bowl XXXI. Howard was actually named the Most Valuable Player of the game for returning a kickoff 99-yards for a touchdown against the Patriots.

After spending 1997-1998 with the Oakland Raiders, Howard landed in Detroit and has been there ever since.

Howard leads the NFC in kickoff return average this season with 28.5 yard per return. He has a kickoff return long of 93-yards this season.

Although Howard has not returned a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown this season, he has returned seven punts for touchdowns in his 10-year career. Howard is also second in the NFC in punt returns and is averaging 12.9 yard per return

Howard is the main reason why Detroit has the best starting field position average in the NFL. The Lions have an average starting field position of the 33 yard line this season and have only started inside their own 20 one time after a kickoff.

Tampa Bay has a lot of respect for Howard's abilities, especially head coach Tony Dungy.

"He's playing very well," said Dungy. "On kickoff returns, he's been phenomenal. They're getting the ball out to midfield quite a bit. On punt returns, he's dangerous, too. They do a really good job in their return game and they believe in him. We're going to have our hands full."

If you think Tampa Bay is taking Howard lightly, think again. Special teams coach Joe Marciano placed a memo on all of his players' lockers on Wednesday. The memo was titled, "Commitment to Contain", and had a blown up picture of Howard on the cover.


Copyright 2001 Buccaneer Magazine/BucMag.com

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