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Bucs punter Bradley Pinion named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

The veteran’s efforts led to poor Cowboys field position most of Thursday night.
Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea, left, punter Bradley Pinion (8) and kicker Ryan Succop (3) walk off the field after Thursday night's 31-29 victory against Dallas in the season opener at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea, left, punter Bradley Pinion (8) and kicker Ryan Succop (3) walk off the field after Thursday night's 31-29 victory against Dallas in the season opener at Raymond James Stadium. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Sep. 15, 2021|Updated Sep. 15, 2021

TAMPA ― Bradley Pinion’s first punt of the season traveled a career-high 65 yards and landed at the Dallas 2, a coffin-corner kick that nailed the Cowboys with poor field position.

The Bucs’ third-year punter wound up dropping three of his four punts inside the Cowboys’ 10-yard line in last Thursday’s 31-29 win and was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

“When you’re back that far, the ball was at the 33, I aim for the pylon, honestly,” Pinion said of his first punt. “That’s kind of a good aiming point, because you’re (punting) to the right and you want to get outside the numbers and get off the field.

“I hit it good. It just kept going and kept going. A little bit of luck went into it. The Lord blessed me on that one. It just happened to be a good punt and started the season off on the right foot.”

One of the stars of a special teams ensemble that coach Bruce Arians said “won the ball game” for Tampa Bay, Pinion averaged 49.3 yards on four punts. As a result, Dallas had an average drive start of the 9.5-yard line.

Additionally, Pinion sent all six of his kickoffs into — or beyond — the end zone for touchbacks and held for Ryan Succop’s four extra points and game-winning 36-yard field goal with two seconds remaining.

“One week is one week, but you’ve got to do it every week,” Pinion said. “That’s my mindset. It’s a great honor. It’s a great team honor. But I want to win it every single week and put this team in the best position possible. If you have to drive it 90-something yards on our defense, we’re going to be impossible to stop.”

Related: Bucs long snapper Zach Triner had a (throbbing) hand in opening win

Pinion also noted the performance of long-snapper Zach Triner, who snapped for the winning field goal by Ryan Succop with a torn ligament in his left ring finger. Pinion was asked how Triner managed to keep playing with the mangled finger.

“I’m not sure,” Pinion said. “He’s kind of a badass, to put it bluntly. He just kind of shook it off and after the game said, ‘Yeah, I think I messed up my hand.’”

The Bucs signed former Alabama long-snapper Carson Tinker, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2018.

Pinion said his goal this season is to be named All-Pro and make the Pro Bowl.

“I’m 27, so I think I’m still young and I’m still climbing,” Pinion said. “I think I will continue to climb for rest of my career.”

Jordan Whitehead practices

Bucs safety Jordan Whitehead, who missed preseason and did not play against Dallas due to a hamstring injury, returned to practice Wednesday. Barring a setback, he will play against the Falcons Sunday.

“He’s full speed,” Arians said. “He’s ready to go.”

The Bucs will be without starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a dislocated right elbow in Thursday’s game.

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That’s 100, and somebody’s counting

Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski said he was unaware until after the game that he and Tom Brady had hooked up for 100 touchdown passes in their careers.

“It’s cool. I didn’t know about it at the moment,” Gronkowski said. “Obviously, after the game, I heard about it and everything. I just listened to (special assistant) Coach (Tom) Moore. He said, ‘I’ll keep counting for you Rob, you just keep catching them.’ I liked that.”

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