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Bucs kicker Connor Barth falls shy of high bar

TAMPA — After Connor Barth missed a 56-yard field goal that would have put the Bucs ahead with 3:32 left Sunday, a few teammates half-jokingly asked the Bucs kicker if everything was all right.

"It was funny. Guys were asking me, 'Hey, are you okay?' " Barth said. "I was like, 'I had a good game before that. I was 3-for-3.' But I missed a kick. I guess I set the bar high last season. That's where people expect me to be."

When you have been as good as Barth, that's the burden you bear. Perfection starts to become the expectation.

And no one is more demanding of Barth than he is. At times, he has found himself lamenting this season's 80 percent (20-of-25) conversion rate because it pales in comparison with his 92.9 (26-of-28) of 2011, which set a team record and ranked second in the NFL.

But the circumstances are different this season. Barth attempted just three kicks beyond 50 yards in 2011 but this season has tried seven with five games still remaining.

"I have (92) points this year," said Barth, on pace for 134, which would shatter his career high of 105 set in 2010. "I'm having a career year from a points standpoint. I try not to look at that stuff. But every year I try to build on (my numbers). Last year I only had two misses. It was a big year for me. But when I look at it, I'm not having a bad year. I'm 80 percent but really the only miss that I've had that I myself think is a bad miss is the 42-yarder (on Oct. 21)."

Barth is 4-of-7 from 50 yards or longer this season, including a career-long 57-yarder against the Redskins on Sept. 30.

"That's not bad at all," he said. "If you hit better than 50 percent past 50 (yards), that's not bad. So I've missed one inside of 50. (Another was blocked). Statistically, it's not as bad as it looks."

That's why there has been no buyer's remorse from the Bucs, who gave Barth a four-year $13.2 million deal in the offseason. Coach Greg Schiano's repeated decisions to have Barth try long kicks is evidence of that.

"I think they have some faith in me," Barth said. "I kick long kicks in practice all the time. We always kick a 50-plus kick with the team at least once a week (in a game simulation), so I think it's partly (Schiano) having faith in me."

NO MOVE: The Broncos' Champ Bailey is one of the best to play cornerback, and he hopes to never play any other spot.

And when Bailey's team meets the Bucs on Sunday, he'll be on the same field as a player he has always admired: Bucs S Ronde Barber. But that doesn't mean Bailey is open to making the move that Barber and Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson took, graduating from cornerback to safety in their latter seasons.

"I do admire the way (Barber) has been able to play at a high level," Bailey, 34, told the Associated Press on Thursday. "He's one of those guys I do look up to and kind of pay attention to what he's doing."

It has been speculated for some time that Bailey could move to safety when his cornerback skills began to erode. Except, they haven't. It's not what he wants, but Bailey added he won't rule anything out.

"I said I don't plan on it," he said.

INJURY REPORT: The Bucs are relatively healthy with all four players on the injury report listed as probable: DE Michael Bennett (ankle), G Ted Larsen (illness), DT Roy Miller (illness) and LB Dekoda Watson (hamstring).

Bucs kicker Connor Barth falls shy of high bar 11/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 30, 2012 9:23pm]
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