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Bucs' coach Smith will call defensive plays this season

Bucs coach Lovie Smith has decided to take over the defensive play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier this year, a move that he had been considering since going 2-14 in his first season in Tampa Bay.

Smith declined comment Thursday on the process the Bucs will use to execute their defense, but his hands-on role was evident in Thursday's preseason practice.

Smith stood near midfield during the Bucs 11-on-11 period Thursday, giving the defensive play calls to linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson, who relayed them via the helmet communicator. Frazier, with practice script in hand, was not involved in the process during the team period.

Frazier came under some criticism last season when the defense finished 25th overall and allowed 25.6 points per game, the eighth-most in the NFL. He will retain his title as defensive coordinator.

As a defensive coordinator with the Rams and the architect of the Chicago Bears Tampa 2 scheme for nine seasons, Smith has always had a heavy involvement on defense. But last season, after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was put on an indefinite medical leave of absence following a heart procedure, Smith was forced to devote more time with the offensive coaching staff.

Frazier was moved from the sideline to the coaches box last season following the Bucs' 56-14 loss at Atlanta during a nationally televised game in Week 3.

Ironically, the Bucs hired former Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for the same role in the off-season, freeing up Smith to devote more time to focus on defensive play calling.

Smith made no secret of his plan to be "more involved,' with the defense during the off-season, but at the time, was not ready to commit to the role of play-caller.

"I'm just saying, when you come in initially, there's a lot of things as a head football coach you have to get into play," Smith said during OTAs in June. "We've gotten those things into play. My expertise, I'm a head coach because of what I've done on the defensive side. I've been very involved every year I've been a head coach."

It's not the first time Smith has taken added defensive play-calling to his head coaching duties. After the Bears finished 28th (354.7 yards per game) in 2007 and 21st in 2008 (334.7 ypg) under then-defensive coordinator Bob Babich, Smith started calling plays while Babich retained his title. Chicago improved slightly under Smith in 2009 to 17th in total defense and tied for 21st in points (23.4).