TAMPA — Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier confirmed what Lovie Smith has been reluctant to say: The Bucs' head coach is handling the defensive play-calling duties this season.
Frazier also said he's fine with the arrangement.
"(Lovie) is going to be heavily involved as he's always been with our defense, and he's going to do the majority of the defensive play-calling," Frazier said Thursday. "It really doesn't change my role from a year ago, it really doesn't. My role is to come in and help our defense and help them prepare for every ball game and help our team win. It really doesn't change anything I have to get done."
Frazier came under criticism last season when the defense finished 25th overall and allowed 25.6 points per game, the eighth-most in the 32-team NFL.
As a defensive coordinator with the Rams and the architect of the Chicago Bears' Tampa 2 scheme for nine seasons, Smith always has had a heavy involvement on defense. But last season, after offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford was put on an indefinite medical leave of absence after a heart procedure, Smith was forced to devote more time with the offensive coaching staff.
Smith had been considering the move after the Bucs' 2-14 season. Some changes were made after the Bucs lost 56-14 at Atlanta in October. Frazier was ordered to call plays from the press box the next week.
Then-Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter helped design that beating. Koetter is now the Bucs' offensive coordinator, allowing Smith to devote more time on defense. But that meant taking away something from Frazier.
"I'm excited for it," Frazier said. "I think with his background and the defense we installed is the one he ran in Chicago, so it should be good for our defense, good for our team. I think we're all looking forward to build on the momentum from this offseason and also what happened in that ball game Monday night."
Smith's takeover of the defense already is paying off. The Bucs forced three turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown by CB Alterraun Verner in a 25-11 win against the Bengals on Monday.
BARTH MAN: New K Connor Barth will get a chance to get his old job back from the guy who took it from him.
Barth agreed to a reported two-year, $2.75 million contract Wednesday night but did not arrive in time for practice Thursday. He will compete with second-year pro Patrick Murray, who missed an extra point and a field goal in Monday night's 25-11 win over the Bengals.
"As we've said plenty of times, if we feel like there is someone available that we think could possibly make us better — I'm talking about our 90-man roster better right now — we bring them in," Smith said. "Of course, Connor has kicked a lot of balls for us around here and lost a close battle last year. We felt like we improved our kicking position. Patrick (Murray) is still our guy, but we want competition at every position, and that is what we have. It's good to see Connor come back."
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The team had several transactions in addition to adding Barth. It released K Brandon Bogotay, waived/injured LB Orie Lemon and signed LS Brandon Hartson.
INJURIES: WR Mike Evans said he is targeting Week 1 of the regular season to return from a hamstring strain and added he could play this week if it had been necessary. "I think it's smart," Evans said of sitting out the next two preseason games. "There's nothing to risk. I've already proved myself, and I'm just trying to get back for Week 1." Nickel corner Leonard Johnson (ankle) is out. RT Demar Dotson (knee) is off crutches but has not practiced. C Evan Smith (groin) returned to practice.