Former Giants kicker Brad Daluiso's workout on Wednesday was his second trip to Raymond James Stadium in 11 months
With two games to go and the final NFC Wild Card spot up for grabs, the 8-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are trying to hold off a trio of 7-7 teams, including New Orleans and the New York Giants.
The Bucs might even borrow from the Saints or Giants' recent past to keep them at bay.
On Wednesday morning, Tampa Bay personnel men held a pair of workouts at Raymond James Stadium that could have an enormous bearing on the Bucs' playoff stretch drive. With kicker Martin Gramatica potentially sidelined for Saturday's game with a right hamstring strain, the team brought in former Giant Brad Daluiso and former Saint Doug Brien for a look.
Brien and Daluiso are the first two kickers being considered for a possible short-term fix while Gramatica heals; other tryouts could follow on Thursday and Friday.
No media was present and the Tampa Bay staffers weren't sharing details of the workouts, but the number of kicks each player made is probably not terribly relevant anyway. In searches such as these, the scouting that takes place before a player comes to town is often the most important part of the evaluation process. Tryouts generally confirm what a team already thinks about a player, in addition to providing evidence that the candidate is still in good shape and is not injured.
Brien is a veteran of eight NFL seasons, split between the Saints (1995-2000) and the San Francisco 49ers (1994-95). During that span, Brien connected on 145 of 181 field goal attempts for an 80.1% career success rate. He was nearly automatic from inside 30 yards (40 of 42) and also proved strong on long-distance tries (14 of 22). Last year, Brien ranked seventh in the NFC with 106 points, succeeding on 23 of 29 field goal tries and all 37 of his extra points.
Daluiso has 10 years of league experience, the last eight with the Giants. Though he was primarily a strong-legged kickoff specialist with Atlanta, Buffalo and Denver in 1991 and '92, and during his first two seasons in New York, Daluiso took over the Giants' field goal duties in 1995. During his career, the former UCLA kicker has connected on 125 of his 164 three-pointers for a 76.2% career mark. Like Brien, he has been nearly automatic on kicks under 30 yards (45 of 46) and quite capable of the long ones (10 of 19). Last season, he was good on 17 of 23 field goal tries and 34 of 34 PATs for the Giants.
Of course, the kicker the Bucs really want to see in action is Gramatica, who was unable to finish Sunday's game after his fourth-quarter injury. They won't get that opportunity on Wednesday, as Gramatica will be held out of practice with an aim towards testing out the leg on Thursday.
"(Head Trainer) Todd Toriscelli told me not to do much," said Gramatica. "I really want to at least test it out, jog or run a little, but they say it's best not to do anything right now."
Head Coach Tony Dungy is reserving judgment until he gets a chance to see his clutch kicker in action on Thursday.
"It's kind of iffy right now," said Dungy. "We would like him to play and we feel like field goals are going to be a big part of this game, but if he's not ready to go we just have to go to the next source."
It's clear that Gramatica wants to play quite badly, so his self-assessment could be colored by wishful thinking, but he has noticed improvement since Sunday.
"I feel a lot better than I did Sunday," the Pro Bowl kicker confirmed. "I think on Sunday I was more afraid than hurt. I didn't know what it was. It hurt, but it feels a lot better today. Sunday, it hurt when I walked. It was sore, and now I can walk fine. I even think I could probably jog without any pain. They told me not to do it yet. I have done some bike and treadmill and it feels a lot better than Sunday.
"I think I'll know by tomorrow."
Gramatica has been a terrific clutch kicker for the Buccaneers. In fact, a recent NFL.com research piece singled out the Bucs' third-year man as one of the league's best under pressure, particularly from long distance. In his career, Gramatica has made all four of his field goal tries of 50 yards or more in 'clutch' situations, defined as the fourth quarter or overtime with his team trailing by three or fewer points, tied, or leading by three or fewer points.
Overall, Gramatica has missed only twice in 14 clutch attempts from all distances in his career. Still, neither he nor the team is comfortable putting him on the field in such a crucial game without getting proof during the week that he could do the job.
"I want to kick at least one time just to make sure I can," said Gramatica. "I don't want to show up on Saturday and we don't have any back up or anything and then tell them I can't go. I want to make sure I can go on Saturday."
By starting the search with Brien and Daluiso, the Bucs might be subtly stating a preference for a battle-tested veteran, though Dungy has stated his preference to be somebody that could simply make field goals. Both Brien and Daluiso have seen some postseason action; Daluiso, in fact, kicked for the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV on the same field that housed his tryout on Wednesday.
Brien has played in four playoff games, including two last season, and made all four of his field goal tries in those contests. Daluiso's postseason experience includes six games, including three last year, in which he was good on 10 of 11 three-point attempts.
One strategy that Dungy ruled out on Wednesday was signing a second kicker simply to handle kickoffs and also keeping Gramatica active to boot field goals.
"No, probably not, roster spots being too valuable," said Dungy of that approach. "If (Gramatica's) 100 percent, he'll kick. If he's not, we'll probably have another kicker."
And Brien and Daluiso were the first two to audition for that job.