Bidwell Has Been Unsung Hero

Josh Bidwell is one of three Bucs in Pro Bowl

By Jeff Berlinicke

He's the last player Buccaneer fans want to see on the field.

The punter. He's the one who gets booed for no reason other than trying to do his job. He's the one the coach calls on when it's fourth-and-inches and the game comes down to field position.

For the Bucs, it's Josh Bidwell who just earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Most punters are nondescript faces who come and go year after year, but Bidwell has made an impact. His 45.5 average this season leads the NFC and Bucs coach Jon Gruden consistently points him out for his efforts. For a team that lacks a potent offense and lives on defense and field position, Bidwell has been invaluable this season.

After five years in Green Bay, where he kicked for the Packers during two playoff appearances each season, Bidwell suffered the fate of most punters. He was allowed to seek employment elsewhere. NFL teams don't put up with contract demands far beyond minimum wage when it comes to punters, but Bidwell earned a spot on Tampa after the Bucs allowed Tom Tupa to go elsewhere.

Bidwell hasn't only been doing it with distance; he's been pinning opponents inside the 10-yard line all season.

He's come a long way from a player who went into Packers camp in 1999 after four years at Oregon and immediately discovered he had testicular cancer. Still, he managed to stay with the Packers and developed into one of the most athletic punters in the league. He kicked in the sometimes violent weather conditions of Green Bay where the wind can reap havoc on a high punt. Upon arriving in Tampa which has little wind, of course, the punts started to go longer and higher.

Bidwell has been named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month and Week several times this year and with good reason. He's extended the field and allowed the Bucs defense to take over from there.

He's not the most well-known player on the team, and most fans would prefer he just stay on the bench for 60 minutes, but he's been as key to the Bucs success this season as anyone on the team.


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