Who says preseason games don’t mean anything.
In one night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers exorcised a convention of demons who had taken up residence at One Buc Place.
Roberto Aguayo was reborn.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht came out of hiding.
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Receiver Mike Evans found his hands.
And Jameis Winston reminded everyone why he is going to be a very good NFL quarterback.
Albeit, they did it against the Cleveland Browns, one of the NFL dregs. But you can only play who you play, and Johnny Manziel wasn’t around to embarrass Browns’ organization.
The best news was Aguayo finding his sea legs. After experiencing a week of less-than-friendly jibes from the Bucs’ temperamental fan base for his field goal kicking woes, he silenced the boo birds by going 6 for 6 with three field goals and three PATs Friday night in Tampa Bay’s preseason home opener.
There were worries during the week when search parties couldn’t find Aguayo at Wednesday’s practice. It turns out he was kicking at Raymond James Stadium in what apparently turned into his best workout as a professional.
Aguayo’s struggles might turn into a rallying cry for the Bucs. They embraced him when he nailed a 48-yard field goal on his first try, creating the kind of chemistry that can turn mediocre teams into winners.
Though it all, Aguayo maintained his composure, declaring he was never really worried. He might not have been, but everyone around him seemed to be in flux.
“This team is built on family; these guys have got my back. That’s the one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve got here, and I’ve noticed through the preseason — not just one person, it’s everyone,” Aguayo said. “When I made that first one — with every kick — they congratulate me. That’s how a team should be and how family should work.”
Aguayo said he didn’t allow his recent woes to change the way he thinks or live his life. His confidence never wavered, and he reverted to doing the things that enabled him to be successful.
“At the end of the day, a professional at any level of sports, sometimes you go through things when things aren’t clicking right,” Aguayo said. “I really came into this game looking at being calm and kicking the ball. I’ve done this my whole life. I just sit back and think that my college career didn’t happen by accident.”
Aguayo insists being a second-round pick, which has caused controversy, didn’t play into his struggles and that he never heard the fans booing last week in practice when he missed three field goals.
“You make 30 kicks and you miss one, people are going to talk about that one miss. That’s how the game is. I’m glad I went out there and did my thing,” Aguayo said. “I didn’t hear them (the boos).”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter had to be relieved. His long-term tenure is tied to Aguayo, and he admitted feeling a little anxious, but he believed in the kid’s toughness. The Bucs brought Aguayo to Raymond James Stadium last week with the other specialists, and apparently their kicking in the stadium was a big help.
“He was definitely in a little bit of a slump there, there’s no question, for three, four, five days, whatever it was, he was in a slump,” Koetter said. “He kicked about 25 kicks over there (RJS) and they had the scoreboards on and everything. It was great to see, that’s definitely the guy we drafted. That’s what he is getting paid to do and he did it.”