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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Healthy again, Barth ready for NFL kicking changes



TAMPA -- Bucs kicker Connor Barth is back healthy after missing last season with a torn Achilles tendon, and he's getting used to minor tweaks that all NFL kickers will encounter in coming weeks.

First, the NFL has extended the goalposts to make them five feet taller -- from 30 to 35 feet above the crossbar -- which can create the perception of them being narrower from a distance.

"It's good. It's different. I like it though," said Barth, who has felt like 100 percent since offseason drills started in spring. "I think it helps us ... if anything, you kick a better ball because you can focus on a higher target. The first day, it (seemed) a little bit skinnier, but I've gotten used to it. It hasn't been much of a difference. You get used to everything."

In the first two weeks of the NFL preseason, the league will experiment with longer extra points, with the ball being snapped from the 15-yard line for what amounts to a 33-yard field goal. Barth went 10-for-11 on field goals shorter than 40 yards in 2012.

"You've just got to take it like it's any other kick," he said. "As long as I focus and take care of my job, follow through and finish, I should make that kick, hopefully every time. I should be OK, and we've done a lot of practice with it."

Barth hasn't kicked off in games since before punter Michael Koenen arrived in 2011, but he said coach Lovie Smith will have him handling some kickoffs, at least in the preseason. He said the Bucs specialists will move from One Buc Place to Raymond James Stadium on Thursday to get used to the uprights there.

For training purposes, the Bucs have a set of narrow uprights on one end of the primary practice field, giving kickers a more difficult target to aim for in drills.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2014 8:19pm]


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