Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back and All-Pro kick returner Clifton Smith is visiting with the Packers in Green Bay today, according to his agent Jason Lamont Dillard.
“We’re thinking about it right now,” said Dillard.
At this point, no signing is imminent as Smith is mulling offers from other teams. However, Dillard indicated that the timeframe for a decision is today.
“Both sides are seeing where they’re at, at this point,” said Dillard.
Ironically, Smith was cut from the Buccaneers after Tampa Bay claimed former Green Bay running back Kregg Lumpkin. Smith and rookie offensive tackle Derek Hardman were released to make room for Lumpkin and fellow waiver pick-up center Ted Larson (from New England).
Since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2008, Smith has a career kick return average of 28.3 yards on 67 attempts and 12.1 yards on 46 punt returns.
But he also has a reputation as a fumbler. The Buccaneers have lost possession of the ball four times on Smith’s seven career fumbles coming on both offense and on returns.
His best season was his rookie year in 2008 when he was named to both the Associated Press All-Pro team and the NFC Pro Bowl squad after returning one kick and one punt each for a touchdown.
There are several medical concerns surrounding Smith. After an impressive rookie season, Smith had an injury-plagued second year that saw him suffer a concussion when he took a hit from Dante Wesley of the Carolina Panthers while awaiting a punt that led to Wesley’s ejection from the game. He was then placed on injured reserve later in the season following a second concussion.
Smith also missed the first two games of the 2010 exhibition season while battling knee pain resulting from complications with gout. Although he returned for the third and fourth preseason games.
The Buccaneers decided to let go Smith when they had other options available to them in the return game despite the potential of Smith.
“That was a touch call,” said Tampa Bay head coach Raheem Morris yesterday. “Obviously, one of the sentimental favorites. Obviously, one of those guys that you really have to negotiate with yourself and with what is going on, but with the emergence of a guy like Kareem Huggins, with the emergence of what a guy like Sammie [Stroughter] is able to do in the return game, with the emergence of a guy like [Micheal] Spurlock who is coming back, a guy like [Preston] Parker, and all those different type of returner guys that we have and all the guys that have played different positions, he really was one of the guys that we had to make one of those tough decisions on.
“There is no doubt in my head that he will definitely be one of those guys to go stick somewhere else and find a way to get back here and do something that I am going to regret,” said Morris. “I’m going to have to hug him at the end of the game–win, lose, or draw–because he is definitely one of those guys that you love and care about, and he’s definitely one of our favorite Buccaneers of all time.”
An opening for Smith conceivably came when the Packers decided to release former return specialist Will Blackmon who made it through four mostly injury-filled seasons with the exception of 2008 when he really put himself on the map.
Blackmon suffered a season-ending ACL tear last season and has continued to have flare-ups throughout the course of this season’s training camp.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy indicated yesterday that the team is considering Jordy Nelson and Brandon Jackson on kick returns and Tramon Williams and Greg Jennings on punt returns, but they may have to go another direction if and when they were to sign Smith.
The Packers are currently at the 53-man roster limit and would have to make room for Smith, should they sign him.
At 5-9 and 190 pounds, Smith also plays running back and could conceivably assume the third halfback role on the team unless the Packers decide to stick with John Kuhn. In his two years in Tampa Bay, Smith has done nothing to stand out on the offensive side of the ball tallying only 12 total carries for 47 yards and adding 6 receptions for 26 yards.
The Buccaneers also credit him for having 14 special teams tackles for his play on coverage units.
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