Bucs kicker Ryan Succop still steady, and possibly stronger, entering 14th season

TAMPA — Evidently, Tom Brady isn’t the only NFL geriatric in these parts defying logic and physiology.

Even as the Bucs’ 45-year-old quarterback keeps putting splashes of mustard on his spirals, the roster’s second-oldest player seems to have gained a new lease on his leg.

Kicker Ryan Succop, who turns 36 in less than two weeks, suggests his preseason exit velocity — brandished by a 52-yard field goal at Tennessee — has been acquired at least partially by osmosis.

“I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball really well,” the 14-year veteran said.

“Having a guy like Tom in the locker room and seeing what he’s doing at his age, it gives you no excuses. That’s been cool to get to see that up close, and honestly it’s been very inspirational for me.”

Lower-body torque aside, Succop remains in the Tampa Bay locker room today because of another critical trait he shares with Brady: staggering consistency.

Jose Borregales, Succop’s 24-year-old training-camp challenger and the 2020 Groza Award winner (top college kicker) at Miami, is widely believed to possess greater range at this stage of his career. Considering Succop attempted only five field goals of 50 or more yards the last three seasons and converted only two, Borregales seemed a more viable weapon.

But he missed two of his three attempts in the preseason (from 49 and 52 yards), prompting the Bucs to stick with the veteran who has nailed 87 percent of his field-goal tries (265-of-305) from 49 yards or shorter and has averaged 1.04 missed extra points in 13 seasons.

“Consistency,” coach Todd Bowles said regarding his decision to stick with Succop. “Obviously, Borregales had his chances. … (Succop) has been more consistent. (Borregales) has got a great leg, and he has a chance, but consistency usually wins.”

From preparation to performance, the consistency still pervades Succop’s NFL existence.

Throughout his career, which began with him being the final pick (256th overall, by the Chiefs) in the 2009 draft, he has remained more a creature of habit than slave to superstition. Succop estimates he still attempts 22-25 kicks (field goals and point afters) in a given practice during the season and routinely leads the specialists in a locker-room prayer before taking the field on game day.

A decade and a half into his tenure, seemingly no one has heard him utter an expletive.

“I just know he’s probably one of the best players I’ve been around,” Bucs fourth-year long snapper Zach Triner said. “He comes to work and does the same thing every single day, and that certainly hasn’t changed between the years we’ve been together.”

The results have been a model of reliability, if not range.

Succop was perfect on point afters (187-for-187) in his first six NFL seasons and nailed an NFL-record 56 consecutive field goals from inside 50 yards during a three-season stretch with the Titans (2014-17). In 2020, his first season in Tampa Bay, he was 26-for-28 from inside 50 but was an uncharacteristic 52-for-57 on point afters.

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He hit 56 of his 59 PATs in 2021 but tried only one field goal of 50 or longer (a missed 55-yarder against the Rams in Week Three), prompting the team to give Borregales — whom it protected on the practice squad all last season — a long look in training camp.

Steadiness prevailed. So did spryness.

The 52-yarder Succop hit in the second preseason game against the Titans was his longest in a contest — preseason or otherwise — since connecting from the same distance in Super Bowl 55. Now, he embarks on his 14th season facing a possible scenario not unlike the one that kicked off his 13th.

In last year’s opener, against the Cowboys, Succop hit a 36-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to clinch a 31-29 triumph.

“I think any time that there’s competition, it’s a good thing, because it just makes you be sharper,” Succop said.

“I think one of the things that I’ve always tried to do is really just try to control the things that I can control, which is just to try and get a little bit better each day, make sure I’m putting the work in off the field, and that was kind of my mindset. Try to handle my business the best that I could.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls

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