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Bucs try out replacement kickers

Martin Gramatica will practice today, but his hamstring might not be ready for the Ravens.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 27, 2001

TAMPA -- Injured kicker Martin Gramatica received acupuncture Wednesday to relieve pain from his right hamstring strain.

The Bucs also were on pins and needles, waiting to determine if Gramatica can play Saturday night against Baltimore.

"My sense is that we'll have a different kicker this week," coach Tony Dungy said. "But he could come out and hit 10 balls ... and be absolutely fine."

Taking no chances, Tampa Bay worked out former 49ers and Saints kicker Doug Brien and former Giants kicker Brad Daluiso at Raymond James Stadium.

Gramatica injured his right kicking leg after a point after in the fourth quarter of the Bucs' 48-21 win over New Orleans. He will test his leg this morning by attempting a few field goals. By afternoon the Bucs hope to have a decision whether to go with their Pro Bowl kicker or sign Brien or Daluiso.

"We'll find out (today), for sure," Gramatica said. "I wanted to at least test it out, run or jog a little bit. But they said it's best to not do anything right now.

"I feel a lot better than I did on Sunday. I think on Sunday I was more afraid than hurt. I didn't know what it was. I mean, it hurt. But it feels a lot better today."

Daluiso has some experience at Raymond James Stadium, where he kicked against the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. In 10 seasons, the past eight with the Giants, Daluiso was 125-for-164 in field-goal attempts, including 17-of-23 and 34-of-34 in points after last season.

Brien played seven seasons with the 49ers and one with New Orleans. He is 145-of-181 in field-goal attempts, including 23-of-29 last season for the Saints.

Daluiso forged a reputation early in his career for long kickoffs. Gramatica leads the NFL with 11 touchbacks, but Dungy said he'd prefer to go with the most accurate kicker.

"It's kind of iffy right now. We would like (Gramatica) to play and feel like field goals are going to be a big part of this game," Dungy said. "But if he's not ready to go, we'd just have to go to the next source.

"(Specials teams coach) Joe (Marciano) likes the kickoffs. But I know (the Ravens) have won a lot of games because people haven't been able to make field goals against them. Part of it is they've got some big guys inside and they get a good rush and I think guys feel they have to get the ball up a little higher. Otherwise, you can't explain it."

Opponents are 15-of-33 in field-goal attempts this season against Baltimore, including 5-of-13 from 40-49 yards. The Steelers' Kris Brown missed four in one game.

Dungy said he probably would not consider keeping Gramatica and another kicker active for Saturday night's game.

"Roster spots being too valuable," Dungy said. "If (Gramatica is) 100 percent, he'll kick. If not, we'll have another kicker.

"We'll let him kick and see what happens. Again, the worst thing that can happen is he kicks well on Thursday, he kicks well on Friday and says he's okay and then on the opening kickoff he pulls it again. I guess I would rather say either he's going to be the kicker or he's not. If he is the kicker and (an injury) happens, just like it happened this game, you've got to live with it."

Dungy said Gramatica had complained about soreness in his leg prior to the Saints game and believed he may have become fatigued by all the work Sunday.

"Seven kickoffs, four field goals, three extra points. That's a lot of kicking for a game," Gramatica said.

After Gramatica became injured the Bucs had no shortage of replacements, Dungy said.

"They all kick and they watch and if a guy misses three field goals, you get the call that, 'Hey, I'm out there, I'm ready,' " Dungy said of other kickers. "Joe Marciano probably had 15 calls Sunday night."

How will Dungy know if Gramatica is telling the truth about how his leg feels today?

"I would trust him if we kick on Friday and he says 'I don't have any pain and I just kicked a 45-yard field goal pretty easily and nothing happened' or 'I kicked off a couple times and it feels good,' " Dungy said. "But if he kicks off and feels a little twinge, then that's it."

Gramatica said he won't do anything to hurt the Bucs' chances.

"Sunday it hurt when I walked, and now I can walk fine," Gramatica said. "I even think I could probably jog without any pain, but they told me not to do it yet. I've done some bike and treadmill and it feels a lot better than Sunday. We'll do whatever is best for the team."

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