DE Jimmy Wilkerson got close, but former Dallas and new Bucs P Sam Paulescu got this kick off against Tampa Bay last October
Last year, Sam Paulescu welcomed Clifton Smith to the NFL. Now Smith can welcome Paulescu to One Buccaneer Place.
On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Paulescu, the former Dallas punter, to replace the injured Dirk Johnson, who was placed on injured reserve the day before. Johnson, who himself was signed in August to replace injured incumbent Josh Bidwell, suffered a hamstring tear against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Paulescu has played in a total of 12 NFL games over the past three seasons, most recently filling in with the Washington Redskins for one contest on November 8 of this year. Ten of those games came with the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, when he replaced the injured Mat McBriar and punted 53 times, averaging 41.8 yards per kick.
It was in his second game with the Cowboys last year, and Smith's very first NFL game, that Paulescu introduced himself to the Tampa Bay return man rather forcefully. After the Buccaneers' defense forced a punt on the game's opening possession, Smith fielded the first punt of his career and nearly broke it for a touchdown. After dashing 20 yards to midfield, Smith had just leaped over a fallen Cowboy when he was hit squarely in the chest by Paulescu, potentially preventing a much longer return.
Smith went on to have a fine day in the Buccaneers' 13-9 loss, with 82 punt return yards and 62 kickoff return yards, but Paulescu also made a good impression on his new teammates. Over the final 10 games of the season, he would rack up 2,213 punting yards, five touchbacks, 14 punts placed inside the 20 and a net average of 35.2 yards per attempt.
Paulescu began his NFL career in Dallas in 2007, as a free agent signee who failed to unseat McBriar for the job that season. He did kick in the NFL that season, however, signing with the Denver Broncos for one game in December and averaging 44.2 yards on five punts with a net of 40.0. Paulescu went to training camp with the Broncos the following summer but the 2008 job eventually went to rookie Brett Kern.
The 6-0, 195-pound Paulescu was released by the Cowboys at the end of the 2008 season and did not attend an NFL camp this summer. However, he was signed by the Redskins on November 6 and did a fine job of filling in for the injured Hunter Smith, averaging 50.0 yards on three punts with a net of 46.0 against Atlanta.
Paulescu's first professional action was actually in the Canadian Football League in 2006, as he played in two games for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. During that Winnipeg stint, he punted 12 times for 364 yards (38.7 avg.), with a long kick of 60 yards.
Paulescu is also a former teammate of Buccaneers wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, as both played for the Oregon State Beavers in 2005. As a senior that year, Paulescu became the first punter in OSU history to earn first-team All-Pac 10 honors by averaging 42.9 yards per kick. He played two seasons for the Beavers after transferring from Fullerton College and averaged 42.7 yards on 128 punts, with an impressive 48 punts downed inside the 20.
As a prep star in La Habra, California, Paulescu handled punting and placekicking duties and also played wide receiver, running back and defensive back. He was born in Fullerton and his parents hail from Romania.