Punt Returners Are A Different Breed Of Cat

September 26th, 2012

New Bucs punt returner Roscoe Parrish has the toughest job in the NFL, says Bucs coach Greg Schiano.

When the Bucs announced yesterday that Jordan Shipley was shipped out, largely because of his fumble of a punt in his first game with the Bucs — a mortal sin in the New Schiano Order — and the team signed Roscoe Parrish to replace him, Joe wondered why heralded rookie Michael Smith, who returns kickoffs, couldn’t also try his hand a punt returns.

So today, Joe asked the leader of the New Schiano Order, Bucs coach Greg Schiano, why it is that some guys can return kicks but struggle with punt returns, or vice-versa.

In short, Schiano said, fielding a punt may be the hardest skill to master in football.

“It’s really very, very different,” Schiano said of the two different skill sets. “In a kickoff, it’s an end over end kick. It is much easier to handle and judge off the tee than the punt. The punt spirals. The good punts spiral. A great punt gets up to the top and turns over and then starts to run from you. A not-so-good punt doesn’t turn over. That is the hardest skill there is in football, punt return. There is no doubt about it.

“Whatever punt (the punt may be; good or bad; spiral or not) you have,  everybody [defenders] is coming at you and it is the hardest ball to catch that there is in the game. In college, you have 85 scholarship players. That’s a lot of guys, yet you may have two or three guys who can competitively field punts.”

This, Schiano said, is one reason why the Bucs are playing musical chairs with punt return men.

“You get here [in the NFL], you talk about a specialist?” Schiano said. “Long-snapper, punter, place kicker and punt returner. There are several guys that can return kicks. There’s not the “now” presence of defenders when you are catching a kick. And it is an easier ball. Punt returning is tough. I don’t envy those guys. It is a special skill set. When you have one that is good, don’t take it for granted.”

Nor is Schiano taking for granted Parrish is free of fumbleitis. One reason Parrish was walking the streets is that he fumbled twice in the preseason.

“That’s always a concern,” Schiano said.

15 Responses to “Punt Returners Are A Different Breed Of Cat”

  1. SteveK Says:

    Hope Roscoe can stick.

    I like all of the shuffling. It is not ideal, but it is nice to see the eagerness to improve the unit.

  2. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    Thanks Joe…great explanation from Schiano. Makes perfect sense.

    We had a great one in Clifton Smith until Dante Wesley’s dirty hit ended up basically starting the process that robbed him of his NFL career (although it was a kick return that time instead of a punt).

  3. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    ^my bad…don’t know why I remembered it as a kick return when it was a punt return

  4. Matthew Says:

    One of my good friends is a diehard Bills fan. His background on Parrish:
    Extremely blazing fast, extremely tiny, injury prone, cannot run routes properly.
    He stated that on punts; Roscoe will do one of 3 things “Muff the punt, run backwards lose yards, or score the most incredible touchdown you’ve seen.”
    I’m hoping Tampa can get more of the latter then the first two. I’m not holding my breath on Roscoe making a difference but it’s a low-risk move at this point.

  5. voice of reason Says:

    for some reason, i would expect the following guys to be decent at it:
    dallas clark
    mike williams
    eric wright (mainly based on one INT return)
    doug martin
    …but i guess you have to worry about putting a starter out there to get hurt

  6. SteveK Says:

    Maybe Josh Freeman should return punts, thay way his athleticism gets UTILIZED.

  7. Captain Stagger Says:


    If you are asking Schiano questions, next find out why he is starting a 3 YPC back instead of our 5 YPC back. And why stretch plays, sweeps, and cut backs aren’t in the Playbook, and why we run on 3rd and 9 when we are losing in the 4th quarter.

    Thanks in advance….:)

  8. Joe Says:


    If you are asking Schiano questions, next find out why he is starting a 3 YPC back instead of our 5 YPC back.

    Stay tuned. Give Joe a few minutes.

  9. Miguel Grande Says:

    They should make some stickers of a broad sword symbolizing “The Sword of Damocles” to put on the helmet of this week’s designated punt returner.

    Can you imagine the stress level of the PR on the Schiano’s squad?

  10. Buckingham Palace Says:

    NSO just said at his press conference, “PJ Fleck is the best at teaching punt returners.” If he’s the best, I would hate to see the worst. It has been muffin man returning since the preseason.

    And why do returners have a short leash and Talib can get torched all day and he stays in. L Johnson, Tandy, A Black anyone would have been more physical with Hakeem Nicks than Talib that day.

    We better cross our t’s Sunday or RGIII is gonna have a huge day!!

  11. The Dutcher Journal (Pete Dutcher) Says:

    This guy will be gone in one week…two at most. Unless he get’s luck and does not fumble and gets a decent return.

    They never should have let Spurlock go if they needed a 30 year old returner.

    My advice to Schiano (not that he would see it) is to put in Michael Smith, and look for another 4th string RB for depth. Forget these WR returners…unless gold falls into our laps…which Roscoe is NOT.

  12. Tcaviar Says:

    At Buckingham palace Aqib had one bad game and performed well in the other 2 games any corner against that receiver core and qb with no saftey help would have gotten roasted

  13. Hawaiian Buc Says:

    An effective punt returner needs to be more quick shifty than fast. They typically catch the ball from a stand still and usually have to immediately make someone miss. A kick returner gets a full head of steam and hits the hole hard, hoping his blockers give him a crease to run through. Michael Smith doesn’t strike me as the punt returner type (and neither does Benn). He’s not going to make too many people miss. If anyone player on the roster strikes me as that type player, I would probably say Mike Williams, but you probably don’t want your starting WR in that position.

    Whoever returns punts on this team is going to be on a short leash if that’s their only contribution to the team. It’s very similar to a long snapper. If they can’t snap the ball well, what is their value? Why save a roster spot for someone (like Jordan Shipley) if they either fumble or have a 2 yard return? You might as well send Dallas Clark out there and tell him to fair catch everything, thus saving a roster spot.

  14. J-VilleBuc Says:

    Bet Schiano wished he didn’t cut Spurlock, anyone know what he’s doing “Give him a call”

  15. sneedy16 Says:

    Spurlock plays for the chargers