Bucs punter Tom Tupa didn't fare well while punting out of the end zone. His punts definitely got caught up in the strong wind, which was blowing in his direction. Tampa Bay P Dave Leaverton actually did well while punting into the wind.
Tupa punted better once the team moved out of the end zone and punted from the 30-yard line.
Leaverton also practiced kickoffs during the practice. Leaverton put the football deep into the end zone ona handful of attempts, but he also had a nice breeze behind him. Bucs K Rob Hart also drilled the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, but his kickoffs didn't have as much hang-time as Leaverton's kickoffs.
Hart handles his kickoff and field goal duties with no shoe on his kicking foot. Ouch! But he doesn't seem to mind.
Bucs cornerback Dwight Smith and wide receiver Frank Murphy were the most impressive returners. Murphy was impressive while returning both punts and kickoffs while Smith only fielded kickoffs. Both Smith and Murphy read the field well, which helped them made some long returns.
Smith handled kickoff returns for the Bucs last season until he was relieved of his return duties upon request. Smith, who had a problem fielding kickoffs cleanly, said some problems he had off of the field are what distracted him on it as the Bucs' return man.
"There were things going on off of the field that I really didn't want to discuss at the time," said Smith. "I let it get in the way of football, so I told Coach Dungy last year that it would be better off if I wasn't back there because I had a lot going on. But now I'm feeling comfortable back there, so if Coach Bisaccia needs me back there, I'm there."
Smith was a special teams standout last season for the Bucs. He led the team in special teams tackles as a rookie. While Smith is working hard to win the nickel cornerback position on defense, he enjoys playing special teams just as much.
"I've always played special teams, even when I was an All-American corner at Akron," said Smith. "This is a part of football, it's a part of the game."
Bucs RB Dicenzo Miller, rookie CB Tim Wansley, CB Terrell Buckley, WR Karl Williams and rookie WR Aaron Lockett fielded punts in addition to Murphy.
Lockett, Smith, Murphy and RB Byron Hanspard returned kickoffs.
Bucs RB Aaron Stecker didn't participate in the special teams practice. He pulled up limping late in the morning session. He likely suffered a hamstring pull.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden didn't get a good look at the returners during the practice, but he does have his eye on Lockett.
"We want to see what he (Lockett) brings to this team," said Gruden. "This (special teams) has to be a niche for him and he knows that.
"At times, you see the straight-line speed he possesses. He's got to get a feel for these returns. We have to give him some good looks where he can find his stride. You see quickness, but you really never see the ball in his hands enough to show you what he is capable of doing as a true punt returner."
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