TAMPA — NFL kickoffs can often be something of a formality with high touchback rates, but if the Giants on Sunday try high, short "mortar" kicks and force Bucs returns, as the Vikings did last weekend, Tampa Bay will gladly accept the challenge.
"We've got no problem bringing it out," coach Dirk Koetter said Friday. "The Giants do a good job with their mortar. Their kicker (Aldrick Rosas) takes a real short approach, so you can't really tell which way he is going, and he's pretty accurate, so he can punch it to either side. Shoot, if they want to challenge us to bring it out, our guys want to bring it out."
Bucs WR Bernard Reedy, a first-year player and Lakewood grad, has had returns as his primary role, and one such Vikings kick backfired on Minnesota. He fielded a kickoff at the Bucs 4-yard line and returned it 50 yards to the Minnesota 46. It was the longest Bucs kickoff return since 2012, when Arrelious Benn had a 55-yarder.
A touchback gives the returning team the ball at its 25, and Minnesota had four touchbacks. But two other times, the mortar gambit paid off. A short kick bounced to Reedy at the goal line, and he made it only to the 11. He returned another kick from the 3 to just the 21.
The play didn't result in a penalty, but Vikings S Andrew Sendejo has been fined $24,309 for his hit on Bucs TE Cameron Brate (right) on a touchdown catch in Sunday's game.
Brate took a hit to the back of his head and was fortunate not to be placed in the league's concussion protocol. Koetter said this week the play should have resulted in a penalty and even shared that the official walked over to him and said that he missed the call after seeing the hit on replay.
The $24,309 matches the NFL fine schedule for a first violation on a hit on a defenseless player, as Bucs S Chris Conte was fined for in the opener against Chicago.
The Bucs ruled out only one player for Sunday's game against the Giants: LB Kwon Alexander, who will miss a second straight game with a hamstring injury. LB Lavonte David (ankle) and S T.J. Ward (hip) were listed as doubtful, but neither practiced this week, so it's unlikely they will play. The rest of the Bucs who missed some or all of last weekend's Vikings game are questionable or better, so expect DT Chris Baker, DT Gerald McCoy, DE Robert Ayers, G J.R. Sweezy and CB Brent Grimes to play.
The Bucs' new indoor practice facility isn't completed but is far enough along that the Bucs held half of their Wednesday practice indoors, a welcome break from lingering summer heat.
"It was great. It was awesome," said coach Dirk Koetter, who held a walkthrough practice in the facility last week as well.