Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs' kicking duties still up for grabs
TAMPA - The most-watched and arguably most important position battle has finally been decided. With only one exhibition game remaining, though, there are still a few others the Bucs need to make a call on this preseason. The most important of those may be the battle between Mike Nugent and Matt Bryant for the place-kicker's job, although Bucs coach Raheem Morris admits it hasn't been much of a battle so far. A hamstring injury has kept Bryant off the field for all of the preseason games to this point. That has allowed Nugent to get a leg up on his competition, but he hasn't necessarily taken full advantage of that opportunity. Although he has made all his point-after attempts, Nugent has made only four of seven field goal tries. His misses include a couple in which he was hindered by poor work by his holder, but the Bucs expected more consistency.They fact they haven't gotten that is one reason the competition remains undecided, but it's clear that Bryant is running out of time to get healthy and make a showing. "We talked to him this morning about it and he knows what he has to do," Morris said. "I believe he's going to do it. I just have to let him go out there and compete and let him win the job. But I want to see him kick." Morris said he's not sure if he'll see Bryant kick in the Bucs' final preseason game Friday. He said he'll have to leave that up to the trainers and Bryant. WATCHING THE ACTION: Even if he doesn't get to watch Bryant, Morris will have plenty of other players to watch as he tries to decide on a third receiver, a starting weakside linebacker and a rotation at safety. "That third wideout spot isn't written in stone yet," Morris said, referring to the battle between rookie fourth-year pro Maurice Stovall, third-year pro Brian Clark and rookie Sammie Stroughter. "They're still fighting. "And at weakside linebacker you've still got Adam Hayward fighting with Geno Hayes and Quincy Black. Black and Hayes are intact, but there's still a good fight there. "And there's still a fight at safety. I mean, Jermaine Phillips, Sabby Piscitelli and Will Allen are all going to play, but they all want to run out of the tunnel and hear the cannon go off." BACK IN ACTION: The Bucs' top two wideouts were back at practice Monday, but don't expect Antonio Bryant or Michael Clayton to play in the team's final exhibition game Friday against Houston. Morris said he's not sure how close Bryant (knee) and Clayton (hamstring) are to being 100 percent, but he's confident both will be ready for the start of the season. "I asked Bryant how he was doing in practice and he said, "Good - I don't have a choice,'" Morris said. "I like those answers. That means he's buying into the 'No Excuses' part of it." GAME PLAN: Morris said he plans to take a traditional approach to the Bucs' final preseason game Friday against the Texans. That means playing the starters for only a series or two at most and leaving the bulk of the game to backups and players on the bubble. Two players who are sure to get a lot of work, he said, are QBs Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson. Morris wouldn't say which of his four quarterbacks would start the game, but he said fans will get a "big giant dose of the young guys." BACK IN THE FOLD: The Bucs apparently saw something in WR Kelly Campbell that they liked. Though the Bucs waived Campbell as injured the other day, he has been retained by the team and is now on injured reserve. Players who are waived-injured automatically go on injured reserve if they clear waivers.
The Daystarter: Brace for some cooler weather; new strategies getting to Performing Arts Center on time; candlelight vigil in Seminole Heights; Bucs let one slip away