Bucs punter Jake Camarda says he doesn’t feel like a hero

Jefferee Woo/Tampa Bay Times/TNS

TAMPA — If he had thought about it, Jake Camarda might have done something else.

But when he fielded a one-hop snap by Zach Triner at the Bucs 41-yard line with 42 seconds remaining Sunday against Carolina, there wasn’t time to read the situation, just react.

So he followed his instincts rather than his blockers and escaped to his left, punting the football with his right foot. The ball rolled inside the 5-yard line until it was downed by Zyon McCollum.

The Bucs were penalized for an ineligible player downfield, and Camarda responded by forcing a fair catch at the Carolina 8 on his re-kick.

It was one of the biggest plays in the Bucs’ 30-24 comeback win over the Panthers to help them clinch the NFC South title.

“Pretty much what was going through my head was, ‘Find a way to get to some open field,’” Camarda said Monday. “A lot was happening. I can’t say I was thinking a ton. It was more kind of based on instincts, as you would say.”

Camarda said he ran to his left, found an opening, knew he wasn’t going to get a first down and thought, ‘Let me try to get a little bit of a foot on this and see what we can do.’”

Camarda said it’s not a punt he routinely practices.

“Every now and then you work on drills if maybe you have a high snap or a low snap,” he said. “I used to mess around sometimes, and you’ll run right and hit a ball and run left and hit a ball. Just kind of messing around. That’s all I would’ve really done.”

Camarda said he wasn’t worried about having to punt the ball a second time after the penalty.

“It’s kind of one of those deals where you just move on from what happened before,” he said. “You trust all the guys on your team. We’ve got such a really good unit, a really good punt unit. ... There was no panic or anything like that.”

The former Georgia star said he received a few text messages from family and friends. But he doesn’t feel as if the play saved the game, much less the season.

“You can look at it that way. You can say that, but no one play is really going to change everything like that in my book,” Camarda said. “It’s a team game. It’s a team effort. Just look at the game, for example. Look at what (quarterback) Tom (Brady) and (wide receiver) Mike (Evans) did, for example. We’re not going to win the game without those guys.

“We don’t win this game if it wasn’t for everyone else on that field. I don’t give myself that kind of credit.”

Maybe not, but coach Todd Bowles was quick to heap praise on his rookie punter.

“That was all instinct on his part,” Bowles said. “We don’t practice botching the punt. It happens, but you don’t practice botching a punt, especially running to the sidelines and making a kick like he did. Very instinctive of him to do that. It was a heck of a play.”

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