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Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn to unproven Shane Andrus for field goals

More Cadillac: Saying Cadillac Williams, center, has established himself as the top backfield option, offensive coordinator Greg Olson may rework his plan to use a rotation of runners.

DIRK SHADD | Times

More Cadillac: Saying Cadillac Williams, center, has established himself as the top backfield option, offensive coordinator Greg Olson may rework his plan to use a rotation of runners.

TAMPA — The Bucs don't know if Shane Andrus will fare any better than Mike Nugent.

All coach Raheem Morris knows for certain is the team had to make a change at kicker, for better or for worse — without any assurance the outcome won't be the latter.

Andrus has never attempted a field goal in the regular season and has played in just one regular-season game in which he handled only kickoff duties.

"I'd never coached an NFL game before I had my opportunity to coach," Morris, a rookie coach, said. "… So, you just have to let him go out there and play. He'll get an opportunity to go out there and kick, and (kicker's) results are the easiest of them all. It's not like quarterback where you have to wait while they sit back and learn. When it goes in, he's a good kicker. When it doesn't, he's a bad kicker.

"His decision is easy."

Andrus was part of a group of kickers evaluated by the Bucs just days after Nugent went 0-for-2 with a blocked kick and a miss in the season opener. He outkicked his competition that day and bested free agent Brandon Coutu in a workout Monday. That's when the club parted ways with Nugent on the heels of a 2-for-4 performance at Washington and signed Andrus, who originally was signed in 2006 as a free agent with the Colts.

"This is what I've been waiting for my whole career," said the 29-year-old, who has also been with the Giants. "This is my fourth year now in the NFL, and I've only got one active game. So, this is all I want."

Andrus was released by the Colts after Week 1, when he was designated to perform kickoffs. But when it comes to field goals, he has only preseason experience.

"It's hard to break in," Andrus said of cracking the NFL ranks. "You've got guys kicking when they're 40-something years old. There's only two or three spots a year. … You've got to be patient, and it pays off. Now that I'm here, hopefully I can have a 10-year career."

CHANGE OF PLANS? Offensive coordinator Greg Olson is rethinking the team's plans to use its running back rotation the way it intended, saying Cadillac Williams has established himself as the best option.

"We went into the season kind of with the mentality of let's work Cadillac in; maybe we can rotate him with the other backs," Olson said. "But as good as he's looked here early on in the season, I think it's time we become more committed to Cadillac Williams as a full-time guy."

That would suggest a potential reduced role for Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham, each of whom has missed games with injuries this season. Graham was sidelined again Wednesday with a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing. Ward returned after missing Sunday's game at Washington with a sore knee.

One reason Williams is able to be used more extensively is his ability as a receiver out of the backfield. He has 12 receptions this season, more than any player other than tight end Kellen Winslow (17).

"We're going to get him more involved," Olson said of Williams.

INJURY UPDATE: Ward (knee) and QB Byron Leftwich (hip) returned Wednesday, but Graham (hamstring) and CB Torrie Cox were among those unable to practice. Those limited included WRs Michael Clayton (ribs) and Antonio Bryant (knee).

TRANSACTION: DE Maurice Evans was signed to the active roster. Evans, 21, spent Week 1 on the Bucs' roster before being released. Evans then joined the Panthers' practice squad, from which he was released Saturday.

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn to unproven Shane Andrus for field goals 10/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 7:57am]
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