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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Bucs rookie Ryan Smith enjoys punt play going viral



Bucs rookie Ryan Smith was thrilled just by the execution of the play itself -- toes on the 1-yard line, falling into the end zone and making a no-look toss to down a punt at the 1 late in Sunday's win against New Orleans -- but the last few days with his gravity-defying play going viral has been wild.

Screengrabs showing Smith at a 45-degree angle as he tossed the ball behind him got the meme treatment after Sunday's win, with many linking his look to Michael Jackson's lean in "Smooth Criminal," and others photoshopping his pic into Star Wars and Spongebob Squarepants and as a rocket ship flying off to space.

"It's cool. I was laughing, seeing it on Twitter and everything," said Smith, a fourth-round pick from North Carolina Central who stepped up to pin the Saints deep in their own territory and keep them far from a go-ahead touchdown. "I knew it was a big play, but I didn't think it was going to blow up how it did. I didn't expect it. I was doing my job. The fact that it made SportsCenter? Wow."

The play itself -- Bryan Anger punting from the Saints' 45, Josh Robinson leaping into the end zone and missing a chance to toss the ball out, then Smith seamlessly tossing it to fellow rookie Alan Cross, who stopped himself at the 1 -- was the No. 1 highlight on ESPN's "SportsCenter Top 10" and made NFL Network's "Sickest Plays," a thrill for all involved.

"The coverage team is amazing," Smith said. "The fact that he trailed me the whole time to make sure, it was perfect."

Cross said the play gave big-time exposure to the Bucs' punt coverage team, which has been among the league's best at downing punts deep in opposing territory.

"It all starts with Bryan. He had a good flip-flop punt and it happened to bounce straight up," Cross said. "Ryan - top 10 No. 1, you know it was a great play by him. The awareness to flip it back, and I just happened to be there. It was old-school basketball, no-look, Larry Bird style."

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2016 5:26pm]


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