TAMPA — Patrick Murray was happy to be back at One Buc Place on Tuesday, happy to be back in the NFL after interviewing at financial firms and considering putting his Fordham education to use as a commodities trader or in orthopedics. But since being released in training camp by the Saints, he and his father would still go down to Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) at 1 p.m. every Monday-Wednesday-Friday so he could kick for an hour.
Murray was the Bucs' kicker as a rookie in 2014. He made 20 of 24 field goals (83 percent) with a long of 55 yards and did not miss an extra point from the old distance. Then came a torn ACL in his left non-kicking leg. He missed a year, won the Browns job last season, then tore his patellar tendon in the same knee and was gone after two games.
"I'm a better man," Murray said, his Fordham hat pulled down low just above his eyes. "Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. I'm a better man. So absolutely, I'm a better kicker as well."
There may not be a more likable kicker in Bucs history than Murray. Also, not many have been more interesting.
Roberto Aguayo was too inexperienced. Nick Folk ran out of gas. Keep reading, because Murray's story includes a happy medium.
Among the things Murray disclosed about himself Tuesday included:
• He feels a connection with Vince Lombardi, the Rams' most famous alumni. He was carrying around his biography and quoting him Tuesday.
"There was a pretty famous guy who said something along the lines of 'I've never met a man worth his salt that didn't appreciate the grind,' " Murray said. "That man was Vince Lombardi."
• He doesn't believe in a Bucs' kicking curse. So what if he is part of it with a torn ACL in 2015? Forget about Connor Barth's torn Achilles, Lawrence Tynes contracting MRSA or the complete career reversals of Aguayo and Folk, the man he is replacing after he missed seven kicks in four games.
"I think if you buy into things like that, they're easy to believe," Murray said. "But I don't buy into that thinking."
• Murray has sought career advice from legendary Irish footballers Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill ('Ireland beat Wales yesterday 1-nil," he said), who told him to keep going because 'you don't get that many opportunities to pursue your dream and play sports for a living."
But he had not gotten a sniff from another NFL team until the Bucs dialed him up over the weekend. Serendipity.
"When I got this phone call, I was ecstatic," Murray said. "But at the same time, I felt so calm. I was at peace. I was like, 'Okay, this is meant to happen.' "
On Monday, Murray was one of five kickers trying out. He obviously did pretty well and said the longest field goal he made was from 59 yards.
Now comes an even more interesting part. Murray is a devout Irish-Catholic. Attends Mass before each NFL game on Sunday.
He doesn't need a sports psychologists. But he has been consulting with a medium. A fortune teller. Somebody who has a connection with the dead (presumably, that would include the Bucs kicking game of late).
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"She's helped me tremendously with a lot of different things and maybe it's just getting me to talk has helped me, getting stuff off my chest and being able to really kind of feel that positive energy," Murray said.
"This woman happens to be really Irish-Catholic. Very, very deeply into her faith. She worked at my gym and there are things she has mentioned that I have told nobody and there are things that she said would happen that have happened. It's validation for me. And maybe it is speaking about my feelings and having her respond. Getting into a dialogue and then having something validated that allows me to feel the way I feel. And maybe that's just all I needed."
By nature, a lot of place-kickers are stoic. They're listed as specialists. In a way they're outliers on the team. They can't be unbuckled from their routine. Murray is particular about who enters his body and soul.
"I don't speak on feelings. It was never natural for me until I started speaking to her," Murray said. "It's a comfort level for me. There's only certain people I let work on my body. There's only certain people I let stretch me and only certain people I'll talk to about certain things. That's the way that I operate. But she's really helped me quite a bit and I'll still be talking to her."
Maybe coach Dirk Koetter should put her in the coaches' box on Sunday. With so many futures tied to Murray's kicks, it would be great to know if he was going to make it beforehand.