From the first play of preseason, kickoff return has been an issue for the Bucs, and as final cuts approach, coach Dirk Koetter acknowledged that injuries have taken away some of the team's options there entering the season.
"That's one of the places that injuries have affected us, at that position," Koetter said Thursday. "I actually like what I've seen from Ryan Smith. He's got a burst and he's not afraid and he'll hit it in there. We go back, like I said, to injuries."
Receiver Kenny Bell, who fumbled the opening kickoff against the Eagles, leading to a quick touchdown, left the final preseason game with a concussion and may not make the cut. Receiver Donteea Dye, who took over for Bell and had the best preseason numbers with a 25.8-yard average on his four returns, suffered a hamstring injury and was waived.
That leaves Smith, a rookie safety from N.C. Central who had two kickoff returns in preseason, averaging 22.0 yards. Receiver Bernard Reedy had three kickoff returns and averaged 20.3 yards in the preseason, but wasn't mentioned by Koetter in his answer about his options.
"We've known all along that Adam Humphries can go back there and do it," Koetter said of his primary punt returner entering the season. "Adam Humphries has shown what he's capable of with the punt returning. We're pretty confident that Charles Sims can go back there. Sometimes we work some guys in practice that we don't put back there in preseason games."
Humphries handled punt returns extensively at Clemson, but did not return kicks. The Bucs could also address kick returns with an addition off waivers as teams make final cuts, as some options there could also line up with depth concerns at running back and receiver.