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Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign well-traveled punter Dirk Johnson to replace injured Josh Bidwell

Dirk Johnson, practicing at Raymond James Stadium, appeared in 12 games for Arizona last season. More pictures: For additional photos from practice, go to bucs.tampabay.com.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Dirk Johnson, practicing at Raymond James Stadium, appeared in 12 games for Arizona last season. More pictures: For additional photos from practice, go to bucs.tampabay.com.

TAMPA — The past few weeks, Dirk Johnson said, he had been working with a former college teammate on a business venture involving solar panels and "next-generation energy."

But Johnson, a 34-year-old journeyman punter, said he'll gladly take a break from the day job after getting signed by the Bucs on Thursday. He fills the void left by the injury to Josh Bidwell (hip).

Johnson was recently released by the Steelers after spending 2008 with the Cardinals. He punted in 12 games for Arizona, averaging 41.8 yards with a 35.2 net. In seven seasons with the Saints, Eagles, Bears and Cardinals, he has averaged 41.7 yards with a 35.9 net.

Johnson, who played at Northern Colorado, also has experience holding on field-goal and extra-point attempts, which he might do in Saturday's preseason opener at Tennessee.

"I just have to shake off a few cobwebs and get back into it," said Johnson, who worked out Thursday morning.

The Bucs also looked at Tim Masthay, 22, who went undrafted out of Kentucky.

ODD-MAN OUT: To make room for Johnson, the Bucs reached an injury settlement with DT Greg Peterson. Peterson, a fifth-round draft pick in 2007, was expected to compete for playing time but has been bothered by a knee injury during camp.

And it sounds like Peterson had an injury setback. Coach Raheem Morris said Peterson was expected to be out 4-5 weeks. Peterson, 25, saw action in 12 games over the past two seasons, with 19 tackles and 11/2 sacks.

"In this league, you've got to move on. You've got to go. You can't hold up the whole ship," Morris said. "(Peterson) is a young, talented guy who has some promise. Hopefully, he can get back and we can do something else with him, maybe sign him later."

NO WORRIES: Though several hamstring injuries have occurred during camp, including by WR Michael Clayton and RB Clifton Smith, Morris isn't reading much into them.

Morris said they're likely a product of his more up-tempo, physical practices.

"I'm thinking it is me being tough on them, putting the pads on, making them run," Morris said. "You're going to get more hamstring (injuries). You're going to get more groins.

"We had more hamstrings when (Tony) Dungy was the coach here because he kind of practiced like us, with more of a tempo, more pads, more physical play, more toughness, dealing with the heat, mental preparation."

Morris said he trusts his medical and training staff, using as an example Aqib Talib, who missed just one game last season with a strained hamstring.

INJURY REPORT: C Sean Mahan (calf) returned to practice, and Smith and LB Geno Hayes (hamstring) participated. Morris said there were no updates on Bidwell.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign well-traveled punter Dirk Johnson to replace injured Josh Bidwell 08/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 8:29am]
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