Both Tupa and Gramatica played with the hernia conditions throughout most of the season, yet Bucs officials insist their injuries did not greatly affect their performance. After all, Barber returned a crucial interception 92 yards for a touchdown against Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament.
True to the nature of a punter and a kicker buddying up during practice, Gramatica and Tupa underwent their operations at the same time -- even sharing a recovery room after surgery. Both players are expected to be healthy for mini-camp drills this spring.
While Gramatica recently re-structured his contract to help the Bucs' 2003 salary cap situation, Tupa will become a free agent on February 28. The Bucs have an interest in re-signing him, and Tupa's agent, Neil Cornrich, informed Pewter Report that his client has enjoyed his stay in Tampa and likes working for Jon Gruden and his coaching staff. However, Cornrich declined to discuss any timetables for talks on Tupa's behalf regarding the Buccaneers, which could signal that Tupa might not be re-signed until free agency has commenced.
Tupa signed a one-year deal worth $476,000 on May 11, 2002 to replace former Bucs punter Mark Royals, who signed a one-year deal with Miami. Tupa averaged 42.8 yards per punt last season with a net average of 35.4 yards. Tupa also set a new franchise record with 30 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, which toppled the previous record of 26, which was established by Royals in 2001.