After Saturday morning's practice, Buccaneers kicker Matt Bryant updated his status. Bryant has been dealing with a hamstring injury, and has not been able to kick for a few days. Competing for the kicking job is free agent addition Mike Nugent. Bryant is considered day-to-day by head coach Raheem Morris, and Bryant is taking the long-term approach with his injury.
"I'm getting ready for the 2009 season," said Bryant. "It doesn't matter if you bring in 100 guys, or if you don't bring in anybody. It doesn't matter, I'm getting ready for the 2009 season regardless."
Last year, Bryant had an infant son pass away four weeks into the season. Bryant dealt with that tragedy and kicked three field goals and three extra points while being named Special Teams Player of the Week in the game following the death of his son.
"I went through a low point in my life," Bryant said of the 2008 season. "I haven't been through everything, but I would imagine it's probably the lowest thing a parent could deal with. I owed it to myself, Tryson and my family and friends to just keep doing my best."
That wasn't the only tragedy that Bryant had to deal with.
"There have been so many things that have happened since last year," said Bryant. "There was stuff dealing with my brother [Billy Bryant] back home. From a small town, and got into some small town politics. He's the most winningest coach in the state of Texas in high school baseball. He was at that time. Because he didn't play the right kids grandpa gets upset, runs for school board and then the A.D. blatantly lied and even signed an affidavit saying he lied about some stuff. Anyway, they got him fired.
"My dad was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease before last season even started. Tryon passed and then I was kind of shocked a little bit with this [kicking] situation. With my dad's disease, it doesn't get any better. It's a downhill deal. It's just a matter of how fast or slow it goes downhill. I'm with the family dealing with that. It just seems like as soon as you get your head above water something is trying to pull you back down, but that's life. I've come to understand through these times that there are just some things you have no control over. The only thing you can realistically have control over is once that ball is put down on the ground what I do in terms of kicking it."
Morris was asked how Bryant has dealt with his family adversity.
"Like a champ," Morris said. "You saw how he handled it. He went out and kicked game winning field goals. Then he comes back and he's got to compete for his job, like a champ.
"He's still day-to-day so it could be any day for him to kick. I think he actually kicked a little bit on his own today."
Bryant confirmed that he was able to get some work in on Saturday, and is on his way to being a full participant in the kicking competition.
"We came out today and I kicked off to the side," said Bryant. "I probably kicked 30 or 40 balls at 60 percent. It felt good. Tomorrow I have a day off and then Monday we start over again and go into game week mode. I'm fine. The two or three days I did kick at 100 percent felt good. I'm excited."
Bryant, 34, was not happy with the team's decision to sign Nugent, and have him compete for the kicking job. Nugent, 27, is a strong-legged kicker that has the ability to drive his kicks deep on kickoffs and field goals. Bryant's strengths lie with his accuracy. This year is the first time that Bryant has faced the competition for his job since winning it in 2005. Bryant worked on improving his trade this offseason to try and keep his job.
"I changed up my approach on kicking during the offseason," said Bryant. "I feel a little better and a little stronger. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it."
INJURY/PRACTICE UPDATE The Buccaneers had a number of players sitting out Saturday's practice. Missing practice were: wide receiver Michael Clayton (hamstring), offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood (back), center Jeff Faine (groin), running back Clifton Smith (hamstring), running back Derrick Ward (foot), linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring), wide receiver Joel Filani (hamstring), wide receiver Kelly Campbell (quad), and defensive tackle Greg Peterson (knee).
"Today's injury updates. [Center Sean] Mahan kind of hurt himself during [individual period] today," said Morris. "He had a calf injury and is still being evaluated. I'll come back and hit you up with more information on that later. Trueblood had a back. He is day-to-day he is walking around. He looks fine. Clifton Smith has a hamstring. His is really mild, not like the one we were worried about with Clayton. Clayton is a lot better. He is walking around really well, and I'm happy about that. That is the beauty of training camp being physical. You get the nicks and the bruises, in the regular season you get that all the time. On Wednesday and Thursday you think that a guy is not going to play, and then on Sunday they are up and running."
Also observing practice was veteran cornerback Ronde Barber. Morris said that the veteran is not injured, but was being rested.
"No, no [he's not hurt]," said Morris. "You've got the old school Benz and we left him in the parking lot today. Ronde needed an oil change today. There was nothing wrong. I just left him up the street a bit. I made him sign autographs during water breaks. He was the show today."
Morris also discussed what the Bucs focused on in the practice.
"Today we had a little four minute offense, which can be boring to a fan I guess," Morris said. "But you have to do it. In 2002 you have a lot of four-minute drives, 12 of them to be exact. With guys finishing games like that, it is a lot better to finish a game like that. It is a lot better to finish a game in the four-minute offense than the two-minute offense. You have to run the ball effectively, make smart decisions and stay in bounds, not get penalties, and not give the defense the advantage to force your hand and have to punt and make the defense go back out there.
"That was the theme of the day. That was the message that we stressed not to have penalty and not to step out of bounds. That second group that went out there we see Kellen [Winslow] step out of bounds, and [tackle Anthony] Alabi jump off sides. It was a great catch but it is still a situation where you have to know the details and do everything you can, fall backwards if you have to, to stay in bounds and keep the clock ticking. Those are valuable seconds that we may need. We may need the defense to use their timeouts, so the offense won't have them to use on a two-minute drive. Those are the things as a head coach, coordinators, position coaches, and players that we all need to know. That is critical." MORRIS SOUNDS OFF ON MANN Morris talked about wide receivers coach Richard Mann and him being named the assistant head coach during the offseason.
"You're talking about a special guy," said Morris. "He got some dude from Hofstra, named Wayne Chrebet, to be great. He drafted some dude name Keyshawn Johnson, coached some guy named Webster Slaughter. Got a guy Antonio Bryant, who nobody wanted, off his couch and come back to football and be the comeback player of the year. He's related to nothing, but greatness. You're talking about one of the best teachers in the game. I don't even know if he wants to call a play. He just wants you to call it so he can show you how to run a route.
"Every once in a while he gives me some words of wisdom and I appreciate it. There are very few people that I sit around and am absolutely quiet around. He's very funny, in his own way. He's quiet. He's a (safety) Tanard Jackson coaching."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Morris discussed the Bucs pass rush, and how it can affect stationary quarterback Byron Leftwich.
"You have to be smart with Byron and use some max protection when he takes a bigger drop. I'm always concerned about the pass rush, but those guys you can't completely judge because they can't hit the quarterback. You have a whole lot of flybys. The other day on third down we couldn't get a ball off, so I don't know yet. That's a situation you can't find out until you get to the game. They've gotten better, I can feel them, but you can't find out until you get to Sunday. Concerned? No. Interested, and waiting to see? Yes."