Lovie Non-Committal On Punt Returners

August 4th, 2014

eric page2Lovie Smith loves to talk about how each position has a “starting rotation.” That means there’s an assigned starter, like Josh McCown, but allegedly every position is up for grabs (yeah, right).

But Lovie won’t go there when it comes to punt returner.

Joe asked Lovie about that yesterday after practice, and Lovie said there is no starting rotation and he wouldn’t serve up names in the mix to return punts. Preseason games, when the lights are on and the action is real, will determine Tampa Bay’s top returner, Lovie said.

Fair enough. And Joe suspects Lovie is queasy after so many years of having Devin Hester (now on the Falcons) playing that role.

As for what’s been happening in practice, Eric Page, the NFL’s 13th-ranked, full-time punt returner last season, looks to be the lead dog. He’s smooth and sure, and quick. At this time last year, Page was only 11 months removed from ACL surgery and had logged no regular-season snaps. Now, he’s healthy and experienced, and just 22 years old.

But Page won’t be gifted anything, and Joe suspects Lovie would be pleased to see rookie Robert Herron or Jeff Demps win the job. But both of them have displayed extreme ball security issues to date in camp.

Hopefully, there will be plenty of punts to be fielded against Jacksonville.

14 Responses to “Lovie Non-Committal On Punt Returners”

  1. Owlykat Says:

    Page is sure handed and has good quickness, but is not a burner, which is why he did not return any run backs to touchdowns. Herron is a burner but has poor hands and will take a year on the Practice Squad to develop. I sure hope one of our other burners score a touchdown against Jax and start to nail down the position. If not pick up Rainey who just got cut by Pittsburg, and was a star at Florida with Demps, because he is a burner with great quickness and wiggle who knows how to return kicks. You can cut the Boston tackle who has been beat like a drum these past weeks to make room for him.

  2. SeanyMac in SC Says:

    I wish that Demps could hang on to the football. I would love to see him and his speed be a game changer like Devin Hester was.

  3. Biff Barker Says:

    Herron won’t last a day on the practice squad. Write this down. It’s VJax, Evans, Nurphy, Streeter and Herron. Paige as a 6th WR and PR.

  4. Evan Says:


    Nurphy. Got it written down!

  5. Tom Edrington Says:

    Everyone is wishing Demps was something he is not.

    Kickoff returners about extinct; Punt returner is the only one that matters, bad hands need not apply.

  6. Harry Says:

    lol, Nurphy

    I don’t know Biff, Streeter is grabbing their attention. If he can do it in preseason games, he might be over Nurphy.

  7. chickster Says:

    I don know what joes talking about with demps ball control issues there are no issues

  8. Joe Says:

    I don know what joes talking about with demps ball control issues there are no issues

    Joe is watching practice every day, not Gators highlight videos on YouTube.

  9. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Owlykat Says
    “Page is sure handed and has good quickness, but is not a burner, which is why he did not return any run backs to touchdowns.”

    And yet, he had plenty in college. It was his first year. He just needed to adjust to the NFL return game. Expect TDs this year if he wins the job.

  10. BuccaneerBonzai Says:


    Have your glasses checked.

  11. kevin Says:

    Did demps have fumbling problems in college? If not I gotta believe hes just knockin the rust off. We need electricity on the field. Id like to see demps in a game that counts.

  12. willie.D Says:

    Page will have more espn top 10 highlights than evans this year if given chance

  13. Hawk Says:

    I agree with BuccaneerBonzai.
    Page has plenty enough speed for punt returns. The more important assets are being able to ‘see the field’, being able to change direction quickly, and being an elusive target. Once you pass a defender, he has to turn around and chase. You don’t need Olympic speed to get separation, and if you have several yards, ‘good’ speed will do just fine. But it doesn’t do any good to be twice as fast as everyone else, if you don’t have the ball when it’s time to run. Page has shown that he can be trusted to have the ball when it’s time to run and, last year, he looked pretty good for being an ‘rookie’ returning punts against NFL caliber players. I believe that it’s his job to lose.

  14. pick6 Says:

    the returners first job is always to hold onto the ball. demps, with all of his olympic speed, doesn’t do that. better to get a fair catch every time than to hold onto the ball than to have a coin flip between a home run and losing the football. i think page strikes the best balance between reliability and breakaway threat, and i seem to recall he was missing some burst last year coming back from injury too.