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Minor injury to kicker Matt Bryant gives Mike Nugent a chance to shine for Tampa Bay Bucs

Mike Nugent, working with holder Josh Bidwell, showed off a powerful leg during Tuesday’s afternoon practice.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Mike Nugent, working with holder Josh Bidwell, showed off a powerful leg during Tuesday’s afternoon practice.

TAMPA — For a day, newcomer Mike Nugent had a leg up on Matt Bryant in the competition to be the kicker.

With Bryant nursing an unspecified but apparently minor leg injury (more on that later), Nugent handled all the placekicking duties in a relatively short special-teams practice Tuesday afternoon.

"He's doing fine," coach Raheem Morris said of Nugent. "He's got a powerful leg."

Nugent, a former Ohio State standout who spent his first four seasons with the Jets, said the chance to solo didn't give him any "advantage" for the job.

"It wasn't like a reward," he said.

Morris, however, said it does help with his evaluation when one player has all the repetitions. So, what did he see? Well, Nugent hit a couple 40-plus-yard field goals but then missed one from the same range when Morris had players encircle him and scream at him to distract him.

"I think they were in his way," Morris said. "He got a little p----- at them. I could see him back away kind of angry."

"They can be all over me, but if you get close to the motion, I kind of hit somebody at the end," Nugent added. "But that's after the ball's gone, so I should have made it anyway. I just got it left. I should have played the wind a little bit better today. … I've been in situations like that a few times before, not too often. It's good to have someone trying to rattle you because the harder it is out here the easier it makes it on the field at game time."

AS FOR BRYANT: Bryant said he had a "little bitty twinge" in his leg, and he didn't want to kick and have something small become something big.

"I want to be doing it, but I don't want to halfway do it, and there's too much to risk on a Tuesday in the bigger picture," he said. "I'm going into my eighth year. I've done a lot. Me not kicking one day isn't going to make me any better or any worse. Anytime I go out there and kick, I want to be 100 percent or close to it. I just want to be at my best every time I go out there."

Morris sounded just as unfazed.

"You know kickers, man. Kickers, they've got to feel right. They're track athletes," he said. "He didn't feel great to go, so we decided not to (let him). We're just going to let those guys mix it up a little bit anyway. Nugent's going to go, then he'll go sometimes."

WORKING WHENEVER POSSIBLE: Young QBs Josh Freeman, the first-round pick, and Josh Johnson took advantage of the special-teams practice to work on an adjacent field.

"Their position coach, Greg Olson, decided to take them over there and get a couple things going on," Morris said, praising his assistant's idea. "Those guys wanted to do it; they want extra reps. It's a way for those guys to go through the mental process of being a quarterback; it's just a way to get Josh and Josh extra reps."

Rarely, if ever, do a team's third and fourth QBs get a lot of snaps in practice, especially when there's a competition between the other two QBs as is the case here with Luke McCown and Byron Leftwich.

Minor injury to kicker Matt Bryant gives Mike Nugent a chance to shine for Tampa Bay Bucs 08/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 6:42am]
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