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DB misses chance for playing time

He ordered as many as 50 tickets for Sunday's game against the Lions, but it wasn't quite the homecoming Bucs cornerback Dwight Smith anticipated.

Smith, a Detroit native, could have seen significant playing time with starting cornerback Donnie Abraham out with a back strain. Yet he watched practice squad rookie Corey Ivy, promoted to the active roster Saturday, play ahead of him in nickel back situations.

Why?

Part of it was Ivy's play during the week. Part was Smith drawing the ire of his teammates and coaches after being late for the team bus on the way to Green Bay last week. And part was showing up late for a weightlifting session in the past week.

Coach Tony Dungy would not discuss whether Smith was fined by the team.

"Missing the bus is not a problem, it's a symptom," defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin said. "It doesn't have anything to do directly with how it worked out, but we need to have every man on it. Usually the stuff that happens off the grass mirrors what happens on the grass."

Cornerback Ronde Barber said Smith has been playing well but may have needed a wake-up call.

"You come in, in your first year in the league, and sometimes it's kind of surreal," Barber said. "Some things don't seem as important to you but are very important to the team. It's important to the head coach and everyone around here. When you're not on those little details, like being on time for the bus that translates into, "We can't trust this guy on the field.' "

Smith, a third-round pick from Akron, said he plans to use the experience to his benefit. He said it was difficult not being on the field in special teams situations but plans to prove his worth.

"Of course, as a player you want to be out there and make plays, but when we win, I'm happy," Smith said. "It hurt, but when you look at it, you have to step back and look at yourself. There's a reason they put Corey in front of me. I have to figure that out. I have to correct that. It's got to be where he's playing better than me. I have to take a step back and look at myself."

Though Smith's gaffe last week wasn't catastrophic, it gave the coaching staff incentive to take a longer look at Ivy.

"Here's our philosophy: If you're playing well, you're going to play," Tomlin said. "Players determine playing time by how they practice and how they play. Corey deserved the opportunity and he got it."

Ivy said he didn't know until "about 35 minutes before the game" that he was going to play ahead of Smith, but he added he enjoyed his NFL debut.

"The first couple of series, I was really tired and overexcited," Ivy said. "But as the game went on I got into the flow and proved to myself that I could contribute to the team. We are a big family. They know I'm a young guy and that I'm going to go out there and do the best I can."

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