Greg Schiano on why punt returning isn't for everyone
When players' various roles started coming into focus during in the preseason, we learned that rookie running back Michael Smith was a strong candidate to help on special teams.
Indeed, Smith was the team’s punt returner for the season opener. But Smith was replaced by receiver Arrelious Benn when the latter was healthy enough to play in Week 2.
Meanwhile, the Bucs have been having all sorts of issues with their punt returns, going from Preston Parker in the preseason, to Sammie Stroughter to Jordan Shipley to, now, Roscoe Parrish. The Bucs rank last in the NFL, averaging 4.3 yards per return.
Many of you have asked why Smith wasn’t considered an option, especially given his rare 4.3-second 40-yard dash speed. Coach Greg Schiano answered that question today.
Punt returns, he said, are “really very, very different. The kickoff is an end over end kick. It’s much easier to handle and judge off the tee. The punts, the good punts, spiral. A great punt gets up to the top and then it turns over.
“That is the hardest skill there is in football. There is no doubt about it. You have everybody coming at you, and you have the hardest ball to catch in the game. . . . There are several guys who can return kicks. There’s not the (immediate) presence of defenders when you’re catching a kick. It’s an easier ball. Punt returning is tough. I don’t envy those guys. It’s a special skill set. And when you have one that’s really good, don’t take it for granted.”
So, there you have it. Smith doesn’t appear to have the intangible the Bucs are looking for in their punt returner. So, until there’s another role for him to fulfill, he could remain inactive on game days as he has been for the past two Sundays.