TAMPA — The adversity K Matt Bryant faced last season gives him an awful lot of perspective.
Bryant's 3-month-old son, Tryson, died in his sleep in the days before the Sept. 28 game against the Packers. He called it a "very tough time in my life … probably the lowest thing a person could deal with as a parent."
Coach Raheem Morris said Bryant, 34, handled everything like a champ, kicking three field goals in that game, including the winning 24-yarder in the final minutes, and finishing the season with a career-best 32 field goals.
So when questions arise about how Bryant, the most accurate kicker in team history, feels about the Bucs bringing in Mike Nugent to compete for his job, he focuses only on what he can control.
"I'm getting ready for the 2009 season," Bryant said. "It doesn't matter if you bring in 100 guys or if you don't bring in anybody. I'm getting ready for the 2009 season regardless."
Bryant, who has been nursing a minor lower-body injury, kicked a bit on the side Saturday morning and is expected to participate more this week. He said he changed his approach a little bit in the offseason.
"I feel a little bit better. I feel a little bit stronger," he said. "It's just a matter of going out and doing it."
STEPPING IN: Demar Dotson filling in for injured RT Jeremy Trueblood on the first team was interesting.
So is Dotson's backstory.
Dotson, 23, an undrafted rookie from Southern Miss, played one season of football in college (on the defensive line) after spending his college career to that point playing basketball. Dotson, at 6 feet 9, 315 pounds, got into seven games for the Golden Eagles, making four tackles.
Though basketball is Dotson's first love and he still has a passion for it, he said he fell in love with football due to its physical nature. Scouts told him he'd be a better fit at offensive tackle, a position he played for the first time in minicamp.
"It's been hard to believe," Dotson said about being in an NFL camp. "God works in mysterious ways. I always thought I'd be somewhere playing basketball, making money playing basketball. But God has a plan, and as long as I do my part … it'll work out."
SILENT STAR: Throughout all the talk, and questions, about the Bucs' secondary — if S Sabby Piscitelli will step up, how CB Aqib Talib and veteran Ronde Barber will do — S Tanard Jackson has remained quietly consistent.
To Morris, that's not a surprise considering that's how Jackson has been since claiming a starting spot in 2007 after being a fourth-round draft pick out of Syracuse.
"A quiet, deadly marksman, that's what he is," Morris said. "You don't even know he's there. He just shows up on your team as a fourth-round draft pick. He starts the first game. He plays. You go to the playoffs."
Jackson was a cornerback in college, and Morris said he initially believed they should just play him at nickel safety due to his size.
"But he showed me wrong," Morris said. "He played first down and threw his body around, and his 152-pound frame held up the whole year."
INJURY UPDATE: OL Sean Mahan has a calf issue and is being evaluated. Trueblood still has a back injury, but Morris said he was walking better. Morris also said WR Michael Clayton (hamstring) has been walking around a lot better, so he's encouraged. KR Clifton Smith (hamstring) was still out, but Morris said his problem is minor.
MOTHER NATURE: The Bucs canceled their afternoon practice due to stormy weather.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]
TRAINING CAMP 2009