With Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes sidelined against the Vikings with a shoulder injury, second-year Bucs corner Ryan Smith was thrust into a starting role Sunday and admitted that he struggled in his first extensive NFL playing time on defense.
"I know I did wrong," Smith said Wednesday as the Bucs prepare for a home game Sunday against the Giants and another dangerous passing attack. "I'm definitely going to play better. That won't happen again. Just learn from my mistakes. It's better to go through it so you know where you messed up, so it won't happen again."
Smith was targeted often by Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, who had a strong day overall, throwing for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Smith missed a tackle on a 59-yard touchdown catch by Stefon Diggs in the third quarter, allowing Minnesota to take a 28-3 lead. Pro Football Focus had Smith giving up five catches for 118 yards.
"He played a lot in the preseason, (but) that was his first time out there in real football," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Let's face it, they went at him a few times, and for him to play in this league and to play consistently, he is going to have to play better than that."
Grimes returned to full participation at practice Wednesday, so it's possible Smith may be able to return to a backup and special-teams role -- he had a pivotal play in the win against the Bears in forcing a fumble on a punt return, setting up an easy touchdown.
"You can't learn from mistakes unless you go through them," Smith said. "Me being out there, really my first regular game playing, I learned a lot. I know where I messed up at, and I'll do better. ... I always have confidence in myself and I'll never lose that. (Teammates) have been telling me since Day 1 that I can do this. They're my teammates, especially the vets. They're not giving me sympathy; I don't need sympathy. They're just telling me 'We know you can ball. Go out and do your thing.'"
Koetter said he's confident that Smith will learn from what he did wrong against the Vikings, saying the position requires a short memory moving forward.
"I think players bounce back quicker than everybody else, including coaches," Koetter said. "These guys are young men. I think they see what their mistakes are, they get corrected and I think for the most part, they move on and try to do better."
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