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Buckley takes aim at cheap-shot tag

Curtis Buckley is to the graceful art of receiving what a bulldozer is to luxury vehicles.

So every time the Bucs line up their special-teams kamikaze on the wrong side of the ball, defensive backs throw a fit. They paint him as a cheap-shot artist.

It happened last season when Buckley, then an unknown rookie free agent from tiny East Texas State, made his debut on offense against the Los Angeles Raiders.

So it was no surprise that Buckley drew the ire of the San Francisco 49ers when he entered the game at receiver with the Bucs trailing 17-0 and in two plays tried to throw knockdown blocks at Dana Hall and Deion Sanders.

But the 6-foot, 185-pound Buckley, as quiet and demure as any player in the Bucs' locker room, is offering no apologies.

"We've got nine more games left. Every time I step on the field, whether I'm on offense, defense or special teams, everybody on that field better have their heads up because I'm coming hard on every play," said Buckley, who is listed as a safety.

"When I step on the field, I'm all business. It's going to be done by the rules, but it's going to be done hard and aggressive."

49ers safety Tim McDonald went so far as to charge that Buckley was inserted into the lineup with instructions to injure players.

"They have some players out there who were telling us they were going to try and hurt us on every play," McDonald said. "They had a DB lined up as a wide receiver, and all he was doing was going to where the ball was and trying to hit people late."

It's no secret that Buckley is among the Bucs' most aggressive players and is tied for second on the club in special-teams tackles.

"I think it was McDonald who said he didn't know who I was. Evidently, he isn't on any special teams," Buckley said. "Maybe he ought to sit in on a special teams meeting.

"I was in on two or three plays. But in the paper they had that I cut somebody down. I didn't cut anyone down. I hit him right up in his face."

Buckley suffered a series of injuries in preseason and was waived on the final roster cut. He didn't re-sign until a week later.

This season, Buckley has found other places to star on special teams. He had been used as a blocking back for kickoff returner Vernon Turner. But with Turner inactive Sunday, Buckley got a chance to run.

He responded with three returns for 75 yards, including a 35-yarder that came within one 49er of being perhaps the first kickoff return for a TD in club history.

"He loves to play the game," coach Sam Wyche said. "He's a tough, physical player, which is why you'd pick him if you want somebody to go down and block for you. It seems pretty logical to me."

But Wyche had not used Buckley as a receiver since December at Los Angeles and Denver before Sunday's game.

"I probably just didn't think to do it," Wyche said. "I felt we were doing fine, and obviously, when you put him in there, you tip off what you're going to do. So you don't want to use him much."

Buckley offers another reason for his two-way role: The Bucs were trying to recapture the aggressiveness they displayed at the end of the '93 season.

"We just didn't pick up where we ended last year," he said. "But we're headed that direction."

Wyche still is irritated by the 49ers' accusations that players like Buckley are responsible for making the Bucs a "dirty" football team.

"He's a special teams specialist. I don't remember anybody crying foul when the Refrigerator (William Perry) lined up in the backfield," Wyche said. "A defensive lineman in an offensive goal line play? I don't remember anybody whining about that one. We're going to list him as a receiver just to make everybody happy."

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