With Josh Bidwell's ailing hip sidelining him for at least the Bucs' preseason opener at Tennessee, the Buccaneers have signed 34-year old Dirk Johnson, who worked out for the team Thursday morning.
“It went good enough. I’m here,” said Johnson. “It’s just how this business is. I accept that, but it’s good to be here.”
Johnson began his NFL career in 2002, punting for New Orleans in one game. In 2003, Johnson signed with Philadelphia and remained with the Eagles through the 2006 season. He averaged 41.7 yards during his stint in Philly with a 38.1-yard net average.
Johnson punted in one game for Chicago in 2007, averaging 49.8 yards and a 44.3-yard net average. He punted in 12 games last year for Arizona, averaging 41.8 yards with a 35.2 net average.
Over his NFL career, Johnson has a 41.7-yard avg. with a 37.8-yard net average. Johnson has 94 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and 32 touchbacks.
Johnson signed with Pittsburgh in 2009 to compete with Daniel Sepulveda but Johnson was released on June 12 after being signed in May.
“It’s going to be quick,” Johnson said of getting back into the swing of things. “You go from hanging out, playing golf, working and being at a desk a little bit, to playing in a game. You just roll with it.
“As a punter you have long periods of time between plays, so hopefully in 12 years my body has learned something where I can snap back into it. I’m in shape. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be here.”
In addition to handling punting duties, the Bucs will also have Johnson serve as the holder on field goal attempts for kicker Mike Nugent, who is playing in place of injured K Matt Bryant (hamstring). That's a role Johnson has played in the past and is comfortable handling now.
“Andrew [Economos] is a really good snapper,” said Johnson. “I have to shake off a few cobwebs and get back into it.”
The Bucs believe Johnson will be fine on punts and field goal holding duties, although the team does have contingency plans in place.
“Dirk is the holder as well,” Morris said. “We have a plan for holders anyway. You always have a backup plan. You’ve got guys like Sabby [Piscitelli] that does punts and kicks and holds. You’ve got Brian Clark. You’ve got a couple other guys that you’ve probably seen in practice doing that stuff. Obviously, none of them are great at it, but they’ve done it in college or done it in high school.”
Although Johnson is now under contract, the Bucs remain hopeful that Bidwell will be able to return to action.
“Josh is a guy who has been through a lot of things,” said Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia. “He defeated cancer and played against chemo, and he’s beaten up on radiation. Hopefully he can withstand whatever this is, get through it and get back to playing.
“We knew [Johnson] from the workout, and he’s played in the league before. He had a really good workout today. We’re working on getting him ready to play in a game.”
To make room for Johnson on their 80-man training camp roster, the Bucs waived injured DT Greg Peterson, who was the team's fifth-round draft pick in 2007.
Peterson was a reserve player who underwent knee surgery in June and missed the team's three-day mandatory mini-camp as a result. Peterson has practicing sparingly during training camp, and was sitting out the last couple of days due to knee problems.
“Because of his injury we haven’t seen much of Greg Peterson,” said Morris. “In this league, you’ve got to move on. You’ve got to go. You can’t hold up the ship. Like I told you guys before, I’ve got to find 53 guys to make this roster. If I don’t have 53, I’ve got to play with 40 or with 30. Hopefully he can come back and we can sign him later. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Peterson posted 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks with the Buccaneers.