The Tampa Bay Buccaneers filled out their eight-man practice squad Thursday, signing rookie punter A.J. Trapasso.
"You're always looking to add competition and you're always looking to get better," Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said of signing Trapasso. "We have Dirk [Johnson] in there and he's our punter. We brought Trapasso here to see what he could do. We want to see his live leg out here on our grass in Florida. We want to see him work with our special teams coach, hold [on field goals] – just see all the things a punter is supposed to be able to do. Then you have to make decisions in terms of what you see and how long you think you can keep him on the practice squad. Dirk is our punter right now and we just want to create some competition to keep the best 53."
Trapasso, who originally entered the NFL with Tennessee as an undrafted free agent, fared well with the Titans, punting 16 times for 648 yards (40.5 avg.) while placing four of his 16 attempts inside the 20-yard line. He was waived by the Titans on Sept. 5 and spent a few days with the New York Jets before being waived again on Sept. 7.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Trapasso played collegiately at Ohio State, where he was a Ray Guy award semifinalist as a senior. In 2008, Trapasso averaged 41.4 yards per punt on 58 attempts. He placed 21 of punts inside the 20-yard line. He also occasionally handled kickoffs for the Buckeyes.
Trapasso is probably best known outside of Ohio State and Tennessee for making highlight reels in August when he executed a fake punt and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown vs. the Buffalo Bills in the Hall of Fame Game.
A few weeks later, Trapasso earned more airtime on ESPN and NFL Network, becoming the first punter in NFL history to punt a ball into the scoreboard hanging over the football field. The punt led to some controversial debates regarding whether Dallas' new stadium scoreboard hangs too low.
The 2009 regular season hasn't even kicked off yet, but the Buccaneers have already made a few moves at punter. Veteran P Josh Bidwell was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury in August.
Bidwell, who spent the past five seasons with the Bucs heading into 2009, was replaced by free agent P Dirk Johnson, who averaged 39.8 yards per punt on 24 attempts in preseason.
"I'm feeling pretty good about Dirk right now," said Morris. "He did everything we asked of him in the preseason. He's a very good directional punter. He's an older guy and he's been around the league. He's sharp and bright. He can do the things we ask him to do. He takes in all the information well and he's savvy. The other day we had a misstep and he caught a ball and got it off quickly. Those are some of the things you see and like about having a guy like Dirk in there."
Although he is not a member of Tampa Bay's active roster, Trapasso won't have to go far to make friends at One Buc Place. He is part of the same position room as safety and special teams captain Will Allen, and kicker Mike Nugent. Both Allen and Nugent also played collegiately at Ohio State.