Bucs Aren't Passing The Buck

Bucs say Bryant not to blame for loss

By Jeff Berlinicke

TAMPA – Matt Bryant is being defended by his teammates at length despite his missed 29-yard field goal that could have tied Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Locker rooms rarely show a lot of respect to kickers and more than one angry outburst has been registered at kicker who failed to come through at clutch time.

That's not the case in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers locker room. To a man they defended Bryant who has been a bright spot on the Bucs' offense this season. He is Xof XXX, a nice departure from Martin Gramatica who struggled for the first part of last season before his release. Jay Taylor came in and did an admirable job to close out the season, but coach Jon Gruden declared the competition wide open as soon as the 5-11 season ended.

Bryant was disconsolate after the loss, and failed to offer excuses even though he injured his hamstring on the opening kickoff and was in pain throughout the game. While the Bucs offense struggled, Bryant wasn't called on often until the final kick that missed by about a yard.

After the game, the Bucs defended Bryant.

"He's won games for us this year and he'll win a lot more,'' quarterback Chris Simms said. "We aren't blaming anybody.''

Offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker agreed.

"Man, we are 45 people in here and he's done a great job for us this year,'' Walker said. "Nobody gets down on anybody. No one lost this game for us.''

Gruden was concerned enough about the hamstring injury to invite Todd France and two other kickers for a tryout this week in case Bryant can't go on Sunday at Baton Rouge, La., against the New Orleans Saints. France was signed to the practice squad and will be ready if Bryan can't go.

Gruden said he had every confidence that Bryant would make the kick.

"He missed and there's nothing you can do, but I wouldn't have tried it if I didn't think he would make it,'' Gruden said.

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