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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

WR Preston Parker an unexpected hero for Bucs



Of all the Bucs who played important roles in Sunday’s win, the least likely might have been WR Preston Parker.

Start with the obvious: Parker only got extensive playing time because Tampa Bay’s usual slot receiver, Sammie Stroughter, missed the game after undergoing foot surgery. Then, to go back in time, Parker arrived as a fringe player last season, a rookie free agent who was fortunate to just make the team.

But Parker’s 195 total yards in receiving and in the kicking game loomed large in the Bucs’ 24-20 victory at the Metrodome. Included were six receptions for 98 yards.

“I came a long way,” Parker said. “I still had to make the team. A lot of things I had to change about myself. I did it, and this is the outcome. And there’s still more to come. It’s just one game. Put it behind you and keep going.”

Parker had the game’s longest play, a 51-yard catch and run in the third quarter. He also recorded what was, arguably, the game’s biggest play. It came on a third-and-4 from the Vikings 10 with 1:17 left. If the Bucs didn’t convert, they’d have to settle for a game-tying field goal rather than have a chance to win.

But QB Josh Freeman had a plan: Go to Sunday’s go-to-man.

“When we got it in close and got to third and short, I knew we were going to have one-on-one (coverage) underneath with Preston,” Freeman said.

He drilled a pass over the middle to Parker, who turned up field for a 6-yard gain and a huge first down. With a first-and-goal at the 4, the Bucs converted with a LeGarrette Blount touchdown run on the next play.

Parker’s performance means he’ll only get further chances to make more. He is gaining the faith of Freeman and offensive coordinator Greg Olson.

“I’m sure when they see I can make plays, they’re going to try to come back to me,” he said. “When you show them you can make plays … you just make it easier for the coaches.”

[Last modified: Sunday, September 18, 2011 6:47pm]


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