Patrick Murray brings familiar face, fresh perspective to Bucs' kicking game

TAMPA, Fla. -- Patrick Murray didn't need to watch last Thursday night's 19-14 loss to the New England Patriots to know the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be on the lookout for a new kicker.

His Twitter account was blowing up with messages from fans telling him they needed him back in Tampa, where he got his first NFL job back in 2014.

Even a former Bucs teammate, defensive tackle Akeem Spence, now with the Lions, got involved.

"You hear about it, for sure. It's hard not to," said Murray, who saw action in 16 games for the Bucs in 2014 before suffering a torn ACL and landing on injured reserve in 2015. "Bucs fans were certainly reaching out. I love those fans. I love being back here, so I can't wait to go play for them."

Murray rejoined the Bucs this week. It didn't matter to him that the last two kickers who came through Tampa Bay -- Nick Folk, who was released on Monday, and Roberto Aguayo, who was waived during the preseason -- struggled miserably.

“I think there is pressure at every position when you get into this league -- not so much [just] the kicking aspect of it," Murray said. "Truth be told, whatever happened in the past is in the past. I’m looking forward to Sunday and that’s all I can control. I’m looking forward to putting some points on the board.”

When the Bucs phoned Murray, he was in the midst of a job search -- the kind that would require him to trade in his cleats for a suit and tie. He got his bachelor's degree in finance from Fordham and was in the process of lining up interviews at some financial firms. He was also looking into commodities trading and medical device sales.

"There were actually a couple [job interviews] lined up, but this one kind of worked out," said Murray, who drilled a 59-yard field goal at the Bucs' kicking tryout Monday. "It's kind of come full-circle."

His last regular-season action was in 2016, when he kicked in two games for Cleveland Browns. He'd won the kicking job there, but he ruptured the patellar tendon in his knee, ending his season yet again.

He spent his time away not only rehabbing his knee but doing a lot of soul searching and reading. He even started talking to a medium regularly. He'd never been the type to open up and express how he was feeling, and she was able to pinpoint things in his life he'd never noticed. It was cathartic.

"I've gone through some experiences, but at the end of the day my experiences are not the worst thing that can go on in the world," Murray said. "I've been able to compartmentalize that, and I need to still compartmentalize things and realize that this opportunity is a gift from God and take full advantage of it."

Murray was with the New Orleans Saints briefly this preseason, which helped give him a boost. Even after he was cut, he continued to work out daily, and three days a week he'd go back to his high school, Don Bosco Prepatory High School in Ramsey, New Jersey, and kick with his father, Aidan.

"There was a pretty famous guy that said something along the lines of, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who, in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind. ... That man was Vince Lombardi," said Murray, who pulled out a book about Lombardi, "When Pride Still Mattered," by David Maraniss, from his locker.

"That 'Why me?' moment might have crept in for about five seconds, but then you remember stuff like that, stuff you heard down the line, and my dad coming here [from Ireland], working his butt off to provide for our family, that 'Why me?' just kind of goes to the background real quick."

It's that uplifting spirit that endeared himself to teammates when he was first here in 2014. Offensive guard Kevin Pamphile greeted him with a big hug. He also got a warm welcome from backup center Joe Hawley.

When quarterback Jameis Winston saw Murray walk into the weight room Tuesday morning, he dropped what he was doing to walk over and shake his hand. Winston told him, "It's good to have you back."

For Murray, it's good to be back where everything started, and to try his hand at putting an end to the kicking woes that have plagued the Bucs since his injury.

"It is a journey, and more than ever now, I believe that God does have a plan for everything," Murray said. "And God's timing is never wrong. The two injuries that I had were supposed to happen. There's a reason for that. I'm supposed to be back here. There's a reason for that as well, and I'm just ready to embrace this opportunity."