Bucs WR Murphy turns heads at right timeVeteran receiver Louis Murphy opened training camp on the non-football injury list but had four catches in the Bucs’ preseason opener. CHRIS URSO/STAFFBy Roy Cummings | Tribune Staff Published: August 20, 2015 at 10:03 PM TAMPA — Louis Murphy went into the Buccaneers preseason opener against the Vikings as something of an invisible man in the race for the third wide receiver job.It was on odd role for Murphy.After all, he owned that job last year, playing it so well the Bucs signed him to a three-year contract extension before the season was even over. But in his quest to keep that job this summer, Murphy was quickly eclipsed by the stellar play early in training camp of rookie challengers Kenny Bell and Rannell Hall.Suffice to say, Murphy is no longer playing in anyone’s shadow.Despite getting in only a few days of training camp work — the result of an ankle injury suffered just two weeks before camp started — Murphy made himself conspicuous when it mattered most. In an otherwise rugged outing for the Bucs’ pass catchers, Murphy proved to be rookie quarterback Jameis Winston’s most reliable target in catching all four of the balls thrown his way in a 26-16 loss.“Experience pays,’’ the seven-year veteran said with a wry smile.Murphy made a 17-yard reception to the Vikings 14-yard line to help set up the Bucs’ first score, a 32-yard Patrick Murray field goal. He made three more catches for 37 yards to set up Tampa Bay’s first touchdown.“We’ve gotten consistent play like that from Louis throughout,’’ Bucs coach Lovie Smith said, referring back to last season. “He’s been a valuable guy for us, a guy that we really could depend on.’’The Bucs reached that conclusion late last season, signing then-injured Murphy to a three-year, $4.66-million contract extension two days before the season ended. It was Murphy’s professional approach and reliable play — he caught 31 passes for 380 yards and two touchdowns — the Bucs found most valuable.But that didn’t keep them from looking for upgrades. They chose Bell in the fifth round of the draft and signed the undrafted Hall quickly afterward. And upgrades are precisely what Bell and Hall looked like during the early days of camp, each catching the attention of coaches while Murphy watched helplessly from the sidelines.Now Murphy has caught the coaches’ attention, as well. And that he did so on a night when Hall was never targeted and Bell didn’t catch any of the three passes thrown his way could prove critical.“We were hoping we would see a little bit more from some of our young receivers,’’ Smith said after the game. “But we know we can count on Louis. He has a role for us.”There’s still no guarantee it will be the same role as last year. Murphy knows one steady performance in a preseason game won’t win him back the third receiver job. But the Lakewood High product also knows a solid body of work can give a veteran a leg up, and he has that with 152 career receptions for 2,124 yards and 10 touchdowns.“I was in an unfortunate situation coming (into camp), getting hurt just two weeks before,’’ said Murphy, who did not want to provide details of the injury that forced him to start camp on the non-football injury list.“But mentally I was in a good place. All the work I put in during the offseason, all the dedication, I always felt that once I got out there, I’d be fine and I knew I was going to have a pretty good game. Like I said, it’s only one preseason game, but it felt good to make some plays.’’And to get noticed firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7893 Twitter: @RCummingsTBO
Kid is turning into an Ike Hilliard type guy to me. A guy I liked for being quiet until it mattered on third and 8. Faster version. More YAC ability. I like the guy...he is a solid pro, a good receiver. Hopefully, Bell and Hall watch Lou Murf do his business.
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