Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Solomon Patton gets a grip on Bucs' kick return job

TAMPA — Solomon Patton was going to be crushed and there was nothing he could do about it. As a kick returner, it's part of the job description. You need steady hands, fast feet and lots of intestines. So the 5-foot-9, 176-pound former Florida captain closed his eyes and braced for the collision.

The first to greet him near the Bucs bench were two of his biggest teammates. They slapped him on the back. They pounded him on the helmet. He gladly took the punishment.

"I pulled up one highlight from one of the kick returns he had where (offensive tackles) Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson were the first two guys to go over there and congratulate him," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "You have to earn your respect in the league and he's started to do that just by the way he plays."

Patton, an undrafted free agent who signed in May, has played his way to the top of the Bucs' depth chart at punt and kick returner.

In Saturday's 20-14 preseason loss to the Dolphins, Patton had three kickoff returns for 91 yards, a 30.3 average. He also returned three punts for 32 yards (10.7 average).

A few months ago, Smith didn't think this was possible after watching Patton muff punt after punt during offseason workouts.

"You've seen him out in practice from the first day, saying, 'Who is that guy? What is he doing here?' " Smith said. "Maybe that was me saying that. But now he definitely belongs."

A year ago, Patton had caught a total of eight passes in three seasons with the Gators. Patton, a Mobile, Ala., native who was recruited by Urban Meyer, learned early that the way to make a football team was through special teams.

Then last season, Gators teammates voted Patton a captain. Though their 4-8 season was a huge disappointment, Patton was not. He led the Gators in receiving with 44 catches for 556 yards and six touchdowns.

After being bypassed in the draft, the Bucs worked him out. They loved his sub-4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash. His size could become an issue, but he didn't lack heart.

"Obviously, I'm not going to grow any taller," Patton said. "I just suck it up and try to show everybody that size doesn't matter. I just go out there and run as fast as I can. That's the thing. I showed them I can make those tough plays. I can take those big hits and bounce right back up."

That's because Patton, 23, has built a protective layer of muscle as his armor. A workout fiend, he won the strength and conditioning award at Florida, which is saying something.

How much would Patton weigh naturally without pumping so much iron? "About 165," Patton said.

"He has to be fearless a little bit, too," Smith said.

Heading into Saturday's all-important third preseason game at Buffalo, Patton seems to have a firm grip on the starting kickoff return job over running backs Bobby Rainey and Jeff Demps and an edge over Eric Page for the punt return spot.

"I pointed Solomon out in our meeting and asked him how much he weighed," Smith said. "He said, '176 pounds.' That's not really threatening to a whole lot of people, you think, 176 pounds. But for a small guy, he caught the ball well, hit it up in there on both (punt and kickoff) returns. So I liked that."

And judging by their reception, so did his teammates.

 
Comments

Shrine Game journal: Homecoming for Utah OL Salesi Uhatafe; Quinton Flowers works on snaps

ST. PETERSBURG — Salesi Uhatafe is back in his hometown, and though he moved to Texas when he was still a baby, it’s very much a homecoming as the former Utah offensive lineman plays in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field."I’ll probab...
Published: 01/15/18
Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

Iowa State’s two-way star Joel Lanning practicing at linebacker for East-West Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — Joel Lanning has the unique distinction of being listed as an "LB/QB" on the West roster for Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.And while the former Iowa State star spent the entire practice at middle linebacker Mond...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

Bucs GM Jason Licht ‘cringed’ at expectations, optimistic about future

TAMPA — It was a brutal year. That’s how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs’ 2017 season.Start with Hard Knocks and the surrounding expectations, some he embraced and others he "cringed at." They all went unfulfilled, mostly due to injuries, ...
Published: 01/15/18

NFL playoffs schedule

AFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP• Jaguars at Patriots, 3 p.m. Sunday, CBSNFCCONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP•Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. Sunday, FoxSuper Bowl LIIJaguars or Patriots vs. Vikings or Eagles, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 4, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis TV: NBC...
Published: 01/15/18
Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

Jason Licht addresses what went wrong for the Bucs in 2017 and how they plan to fix it

It was a "brutal year." That's how general manager Jason Licht views the Bucs 2017 season.Expectations, many of them he said he "cringed at," nonetheless went unfulfilled due to injuries, particularly the right shoulder sprain suffered by quarterback...
Published: 01/15/18
Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

Bucs search for a backup quarterback becomes paramount amid NFL’s probe into Winston

With the NFL investigating allegations against Jameis Winston that potentially could result in a suspension, the Bucs will need to address the backup quarterback position again this off-season."That's another position I always want to do whatever we ...
Published: 01/15/18
Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

Rick and Tom podcast: Who says you need a franchise QB in the playoffs?

The NFL’s final four teams are set, and the starting quarterbacks are Tom Brady, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum and Nick Foles. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down this past weekend’s games, including the Vikings’ miraculous fin...
Published: 01/15/18
Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

Vikings stun Saints with 61-yard touchdown on last play

MINNEAPOLIS — This doesn’t happen, not in the NFL, not in the playoffs, not when what is on the line are such things as legacies and franchise curses and — oh, my. All of it.The Vikings were dead, just as they have always been in the playoffs. Their ...
Published: 01/14/18

Showdowns set: Jags-Patriots in AFC, Vikings-Eagles in NFC

NEW YORK — Watch out, New England. Here comes Sacksonville. Get ready, Philly. The Vikings are sailing into town. Tom Brady and the big game-tested Patriots square off against the sack-happy Jaguars (12-6) next Sunday in the AFC Championship Game in ...
Published: 01/14/18
Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Jones: Besties, Ball and bloopers -- it’s TV tidbits time

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Best comebackExcuse Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp for getting so carried away that he dropped the queen bee of curse words on live television Sun...
Published: 01/14/18