The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolled out a press conference this afternoon introducing Lovie Smith as the head coach. After a 30 minute Q & A period, Smith seemed to answer all the questions in the manner that appeased the members of the media in the audience, but then again, he spent nine seasons addressing the Chicago media, a bit more harsh than those that placated him the in audience this afternoon.
After watching the presser, Smith seemed to stress on the third axis of football, special teams. While he didn’t have anything harsh to say about either the offensive or defensive side of the football, he did address special teams, twice.
“We have to have great special teams. When we send our kicker on the field, we expect him to make the kick. You have to have a great punter. But for us to have great special teams, you have to have a great returner. We’re excited about putting all these pieces together, ” said Smith in his press conference.
The kicking game was a disaster for the Buccaneers this season. Conner Barth was eliminated from the team at the start of the season after injuring himself in the offseason while playing in a charity basketball game. The Buccaneers then added free agent Lawrence Tynes, who suffered a MRSA infection and was lost for the year. Tampa then added Rian Lindell, who missed several key kicks early on. Barth needs to be given another shot as he was a very accurate and strong kicker prior to his injury.
The interesting aspect of Smith’s comments though centered on the return game. Perhaps this is not be accident. Chicago Bears KR/WR Devin Hester is a free agent this offseason, and his comments this afternoon might have been a veiled invitation to come to the bay area this offseason and join the Buccaneers. Tampa failed to return a kick for a touchdown this season while Eric Page handled most of the return duties.
Smith said all the right things this afternoon. Of course, every new hire is the most popular guy in the building. But I expect to see many former players on the Buccaneers roster next season.