The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that has needed to have a productive and reliable kicker. Over the years the Bucs have played in a lot of close games, many being low scoring affairs that rely on a tenacious defense and just enough offense to get by. Tampa Bay has won a number of games off the foot of kicker Matt Bryant.
With Bryant being in a bit of a slump the Buccaneers worked out kickers this week. Bryant feels his slump is behind him and he is ready to be back to his reliable ways for the start of the regular season.
"Obviously you want to make every kick," said Bryant. "But it just happened that way and I made the last three. In a kicker's world you're only as good as your last kick, and my last three kicks were good. I'm going into the season zero for zero with a clean slate.
"Obviously it is a good thing (to finish strong). My confidence has always been there no matter what. I've probably been more frustrated than anything with the misses. It is just something that I see what I got to do to correct it, and I will. I've made my last three and going into this one the slate is wiped clean and it is a brand new beginning and brand new season."
For the preseason, Bryant went 7-12 (58.3 percent) on his field goal tries. A few of the misses were from long distances but some were from short to intermediate range. In his seven-year career, Bryant has made 88.9 percent of his field goal attempts. Last season, Bryant was 28-of-33 for an average of 84.8 percent.
With the first game inside at the Louisiana Superdome, Bryant is in a good location to help him get out of a slump. Beyond the kicking environment, Bryant feels that he has identified the issue that was causing him to miss the kicks in August.
"The reason I missed the kicks is I'm not getting my hip through the ball," said Bryant. "I'm not necessarily going out there and just blasting it. I've kind of been just trying to be too smooth."
After his 3-5 performance in the final preseason game, Tampa Bay worked out a number of kickers at One Buccaneer Place, three on Labor Day. One of the kickers that was worked out was former Miami Dolphin kicker Jay Feely. After the tryouts the Bucs decided to stick with Bryant. The vote of confidence there, and from head coach Jon Gruden at the Houston game, bolstered Bryant.
"It was good," said Bryant. "It showed that they still believe in me and they have confidence in me. It is always good when you're head coach does that. It is not normal or typical, but it is just to reaffirm that I'm still the guy, which I am. I've been the Bucs kicker for three years. I'm the Bucs kicker right now, and I plan on being the Bucs kicker for another three or four years."
Gruden's high opinion of Bryant has not apparently changed after the shaky preseason.
"I'm confident in him," said Gruden. "I'm not disappointed in his inability to make some of those kicks. I'm more shocked than anything because I've seen him be so good for so long. Hopefully a few misses will be good for you, that way you know you're not perfect and there is work to be done. I'm sure he'll be ready to go."
If Bryant carries over his preseason percentage into the regular season, the kickers that were worked out could be getting called back. Tampa Bay is an organization that makes it a point to evaluate their options and do their due diligence on the available players. The Bucs are sticking with Bryant, and he has a plan to reassure any doubts.
"You just go out there and keep doing it," Bryant said. "If you look at my charts from this summer, I probably missed about three kicks of over a hundred kicks. It has been weird. I've never had this kind of offseason, preseason, and camp before. It is almost a bit uncomfortable like you wish you would've missed a kick or two. It is what it is. It is over and done with and here we go."
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