Head Coach Bruce Arians does things his way. That’s been evident from the moment he’s stepped into AdventHealth Training Center. Whether it’s his, ‘No risk it, no biscuit’ approach to an offense, the way he structures his practices or hiring specialist coach Chris Boniol to work exclusively with kickers, there are many things that are very unique to how BA runs a team.
The latter was enough to woo the 6’5 former San Francisco 49ers punter Bradley Pinion to Tampa, who officially signed on to wear the red and pewter Thursday morning on a four-year deal. The rarity of having a coach dedicated to specialists is a little confounding. Much like Arians’ simultaneous practice structure where he essentially has two practices going on at once in order to get backup and reserve players more reps to aid in their development, having a ‘specialist for specialists’ seems like it just makes too much sense.
“For an organization to value special teams enough to hire a specialist coach is truly impeccable,” Pinion said. “That’s one of the main reasons I came here, honestly. You don’t see that hardly ever in the NFL. Or in college, or anywhere. I think that’s huge and will help the specialists’ room get back to where it needs to be and be a huge part of this team winning.”
Pinion is indirectly familiar with Arians himself and knows assistant special teams coordinator Amos Jones pretty well, too. He had a lot of interactions with Jones when he was coming out of college. He’s also good friends with fellow former Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro, who was here in Tampa Bay last year but spent three years under Arians in Arizona, providing Pinion a first-hand account to his now-current head coach.
“[He’ll] get on you when you need to be get on and he’ll love you when you need to be loved,” Pinion said of how he’s heard Arians coaches. “That’s all you can ask for from a coach. You don’t want to be fluffed or flowered, you want the honest and brutal truth and that’s how I like to be coached.”
The addition of a specialist coach is part of a wider effort of Coach Arians to emphasize special teams. It’s an area he feels the Bucs have been lacking and he seems to understand the importance of that third phase of the game – just like Pinion.
“Field position is huge,” Pinion explained, giving a glimpse into his specialist philosophy. “It’s the last play of offense and first play of defense, honestly. I think punters take great pride in that, pinning the team deep or just flipping the field. It’s a huge aspect of actually winning the game, is field position. I’ve seen numerous charts where it’s like the percentages of scoring and kicking field goals goes up and down when you have to move farther down the field. I’m glad it’s becoming relevant again. Punters are trying to get a little bit more respect and I’m just excited.”
His familiarity with the staff is coupled with the fact he’s familiar with the Bay area itself. He’s grown up training in Tampa Bay with Tom Feely, long-time NFL kicker Jay Feely’s dad, in fact. And this was interesting – I think I speak for most when I say that the humidity here in Florida is probably the biggest drawback to living in a place where people vacation – but Pinion loves it. Really loves it. He says he even thinks it helps him as a punter.
“I love punting here. I love the humidity, I think it makes the ball fly farther. It kind of carries it. I’ve loved the stadium, loved the weather down here.”
There’s evidence to support that in Pinion’s performance at Raymond James Stadium during the Bucs’ Week 12 win over the 49ers. Pinion individually had a great game, booting six kicks, three of which landed inside the 20. Plus, the Bucs were only able to return one of his punts at all, an Adam Humphries effort for just six yards.
Pinion will now get to regularly kick inside Raymond James Stadium for quite a while.
“I’m excited to get down here and get into Raymond James.”