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Punter Josh Bidwell sidelined by hip pain, forcing Tampa Bay Buccaneers to host auditions

Josh Bidwell has not missed a game in his five seasons in Tampa Bay and had an average net of 37.6 yards last season.

Times (2007)

Josh Bidwell has not missed a game in his five seasons in Tampa Bay and had an average net of 37.6 yards last season.

TAMPA — The Bucs have had a physical training camp, but the only thing punter Josh Bidwell has hit is the football.

Bidwell, however, arrived at work Wednesday experiencing pain in his right hip, an injury severe enough that the team plans to audition Tim Masthay and Dirk Johnson this morning hoping to sign a replacement for him.

Bidwell, 33, who has not missed a regular-season game since 2000, had a series of MRI examinations, and the team was awaiting the results. He will not punt in Saturday night's preseason opener at Tennessee.

It's another blow for the Bucs' special teams. Tuesday, kicker Matt Bryant aggravated his right hamstring injury and will not play Saturday.

"There was no sled those guys had to hit. There were no tackling drills that they were involved in," coach Raheem Morris said. "You control what you can."

General manager Mark Dominik said the team would not speculate on the severity of Bidwell's injury until doctors had a chance to examine the test results.

"To be quite honest with you, I'm not going to be coy with you guys. It's too early for us to sit there and say what's the severity," he said. "As soon as we get that information, we'll know.''

Masthay, 22, a former Kentucky punter, was released this week by the Colts. Johnson, 34, is a veteran of seven NFL teams and was last with the Steelers. His last regular-season action came in 2008 when he appeared in 12 games with the Cardinals.

The Bucs will be without several key players Saturday night, including receivers Antonio Bryant (knee) and Michael Clayton (hamstring), center Jeff Faine (groin) and linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring). Running back Clifton Smith (hamstring) is questionable but will not return kicks if he plays.

Dominik said the hip problem is not something Bidwell has experienced in the past.

"It really flared up on him (Wednesday)," Dominik said. "It was real painful for him, so it caused us to have to take more of a look at it. Whenever there is an injury, we take it serious. … There's a lot of good hip doctors, and we want to make sure the right people are looking at the MRI to make sure that we get the right information."

Dominik dismissed a report that Bidwell's condition was a degenerative one: "I wouldn't say that, no.''

Morris said he's not going to dwell on the possibility of being without his returning punter and kicker.

"I pride myself on not worrying about it, being mentally tough about it," Morris said. "We've got one punter. We'll have to bring in some guys to compete for the job and let those guys punt and deal with it that way. The same thing with the kicker.

"Those things you can't control. Those things I can't control. … Right now, I'm controlling the environment. I'm not going to let you guys go, 'Oh, woe is me,' because we've got two guys hurt."

Punter Josh Bidwell sidelined by hip pain, forcing Tampa Bay Buccaneers to host auditions 08/12/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:19am]
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