Loyalty is hard to find in professional sports, much less from NFL coaches.
So it's admirable that Bucs coach Lovie Smith decided to stand by K Kyle Brindza after the rookie from Notre Dame missed three field goals and an extra point in Sunday's 19-9 loss at Houston.
Brindza, who was acquired in a trade with the Lions for TE Tim Wright, has an exceptionally strong leg, evidenced by his 58-yard field goal to start the game against the Texans, the second longest in club history. His kickoffs routinely boom through the end zone for touchbacks.
But after three games, Brindza is 5-of-9 in field-goal attempts (55.6 percent). Typically, good college kickers improve when they get to the NFL because of the narrow hash marks and a better battery of long snappers and holders.
However, Brindza was 14-of-24 on field goals for the Irish last season, a 58.3 success rate. With Brindza having no track record to speak of on the NFL stage, the Bucs have to worry if this is more his norm. The only way to know is to send him back out there.
Last week Brindza said he was not finishing his kicks and pushed three of his misses wide right. Smith said Brindza was perfect in practice last week.
"He responded well," Smith said. "When you have a game like (the Texans game), you go out to the practice field and you try to get it through the goal posts. In practice, he's hit everyone (last) week. That's all you can do until you get to the stadium.
"Every once in a while you have games like that. That's one game. It's not defining him. If we get an opportunity to kick field goals (today against the Panthers), I won't hesitate at all."
The Bucs hope the performance by Steelers K Josh Scobee won't be a cautionary tale. Scobee, a career 80 percent field-goal kicker in his 12th year, missed two field goals in a season-opening 28-21 loss to the Patriots. He made his next two attempts in a win against the Rams on Sunday, but on Thursday, Scobee's two missed field goals were the difference in a 23-20 overtime loss to the Ravens. The Steelers released Scobee on Saturday.
If the Bucs upset Carolina today, the difference will likely be a touchdown or less. Smith's decision could either be confirmed or vilified. But his faith in Brindza is unwavering.
NOT THE REAL McCOY: The Bucs say DT Gerald McCoy is hurt, not injured. He played 56 of the 93 defensive snaps at Houston. His ailing right shoulder is clearly affecting not only his play but his availability.
"Like a lot of guys at this point, they're battling through different aches and bruises, some sort of pain," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He's doing the same thing. He's battling and putting himself in a position where he can go out and play. He's not 100 percent, but a lot of players aren't at 100 percent."
How much is McCoy's injury limiting him on the field?
"It probably has, to some degree," Frazier said. "To what degree, I don't know. But he's still a handful for anyone to try and block."
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OH BOY, GEORGE: DE George Johnson had never been a full-time starter until he was acquired in a trade with Detroit, where he had six sacks last season as a nickel pass rusher. In three games, Johnson has only five tackles for the Bucs, including three solo, and no sacks.
Frazier suggested it's just a matter of Johnson adjusting to the length and pace of the game, and playing against the run on first and second down. "He's not accustomed to playing as many snaps or even the role we're asking him to play as a starter," Frazier said.
FIELD OF DREAMS: Raymond James Stadium has the second-best playing surface in the NFL, according to Sports Illustrated. The magazine looked at past player rankings, insight from current players and details from grounds keepers to come up with the list. The Cardinals had the best player surface, the survey said.