Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Clifton Smith won't let concussions hold him back

Clifton Smith, heading to the sideline after a practice drill last week, wants time at running back this season as well as kick returner, a skill that made him a 2008 Pro Bowl selection.


Clifton Smith, heading to the sideline after a practice drill last week, wants time at running back this season as well as kick returner, a skill that made him a 2008 Pro Bowl selection.

TAMPA — Think the Bucs' Clifton Smith is letting the two concussions he suffered last season hold him back?

Try sparring with him.

Smith, 24, said he has incorporated boxing into his offseason conditioning program, going two to three times a week to a local gym. He works with a trainer, spars a bit and hits the heavy bag.

"I'm no (Floyd) Mayweather," he said, joking. "But I'm all right."

Smith knows he's better than that on the field and makes sure to drive past Raymond James Stadium every time he goes to work to remind himself of how far he has come. On the outside walls of the building, along with huge pictures of veteran cornerback Ronde Barber and quarterback Josh Freeman, there's one of Smith, who emerged as an undrafted free agent to become a Pro Bowl kick returner as a rookie two years ago.

"I go across the stadium, and I see all first-rounders and future Hall of Famers," he said. "And I see my picture on the side of the stadium. It's special for me."

But for all the highs Smith has experienced, he is hungry to bounce back from some lows last season, which ended for him Dec. 8 when he was put on injured reserve after sustaining two concussions in seven weeks. Though Smith's kickoff-return average was the second best in team history (29.1 yards), the season left a sour taste in his mouth.

"Last year wasn't a very good year," Smith said. "You can't hide it. I was disappointed in myself. I fumbled again last year, which is something I'm trying to eliminate in this game. You don't make it too far fumbling. Last year was just a roller coaster."

Smith hopes to return to form this season and also get some time at running back. He understands he'll have to cut out fumbles like he had last year against Washington, a turnover that came with 48 seconds left.

And Smith saw how Sammie Stroughter and Micheal Spurlock stepped in and made impacts in the return game in his absence. Stroughter went in after Smith suffered his first concussion, against Carolina on Oct. 18, and returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. In the Bucs' biggest win, 20-17 over New Orleans on Dec. 27, Spurlock's 77-yard punt return for a touchdown tied the score in the fourth quarter.

Smith, who says he hasn't felt any postconcussion symptoms, believes he can get back to the level of play he was at in his rookie season, when he averaged 27.6 yards per kick return and was the only player in the NFL to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown.

"If you're worried about concussions, you can't play this game," he said. "You can't play this game scared and worried. You've got to strap it up and go full speed."

Smith hopes that in the end, he can finish this season where he did two years ago, in the Pro Bowl.

"I kind of told one of my boys, (Vikings receiver) Bernard Berrian, to tell (reigning NFC Pro Bowl kick returner and Viking) Percy Harvin I'm coming back for my crown," Smith said, smiling. "(Harvin) did a great job last year. … So I've got to compete with him, and now we've got (the 49ers') Ted Ginn in the NFC. So I've got a lot of work to do."

Joe Smith can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Clifton Smith won't let concussions hold him back 06/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Good to be bad? Dirk Koetter's call for bold, brash Bucs


    Is being a badass team all about swagger and toughness? "Our whole thing is about competing," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says. (Loren Elliott | Times)
  2. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.
  3. Fennelly: With playoff chase in high gear, it's time for Rays to make a move

    The Heater


    Thursday was an off-day for the Rays, who are coming off a solid western swing. I assume there was no rest for the tag-team Rays baseball brain trust of Matt Silverman, Erik Neander and Chaim Bloom, whose job it is to improve this team in advance of the trade deadline. They've done a good job …

    Evan Longoria is glad to see the Rangers coming to town: He’s batting .296 against them with 15 homers and 56 RBIs in 69 career games.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Good news for Rays on Steven Souza Jr. as MRI shows 'no damage' to hip


    The Rays got good news today on RF Steven Souza Jr., as an MRI showed "no damage" to his left hip.

    Steven Souza Jr. #20 of the Tampa Bay Rays holds his leg after hurting himself trying to steal second base in the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on July 19, 2017 in Oakland, California.