Tom Tupa boomed long punts, including one for 58 yards, in Washington's regular season opener Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tupa also booted some short punts toward the corners of the field in an effort to pin the Bucs deep in their territory.
The Redskins' kickoff coverage sputtered during the 16-10 victory against Tampa Bay, causing Coach Joe Gibbs to express concern. But Washington's punting was splendid behind Tupa's 38-year-old leg.
"We were trying to pin them into the sideline to cut off their options," said Tupa, who had one punt inside the 20, "and guys got down there to stop them."
The accuracy of Tupa's short punts has been mastered during 16 years in the NFL, and come as no surprise. Special teams coach Danny Smith emphasizes hang time and directional punting. But Tupa also showed surprising leg strength with several thunderous punts.
"Once in a while, it comes around," Tupa said. "I guess I take care of myself pretty decently. I work hard at what I do, and hopefully that has a lot to do with it."
During a frenzied offseason that saw almost half of Washington's roster change, Tupa's acquisition was barely a blip. The Redskins signed Tupa to a four-year contract worth $3.065 million, which included a $675,000 bonus. But Gibbs considers Tupa's signing significant because of the importance the coach places on special teams.
The 6-foot-4 Tupa has been one of the best punters in the league in recent years, known for his quick release and nifty placement of the ball. One factor in the Redskins courting Tupa was that he played with Redskins place kicker John Hall from 1999 to 2001 with the New York Jets.
Tupa was selected as a quarterback-punter in the third round of the 1988 draft.
The Redskins were interested in Tupa last year, but he signed with the Bucs. And the Redskins kept Bryan Barker as their punter. Barker lacked consistency last season.
Tupa intends to play at least through his contract, which expires in 2007.
"My wife jokes about pushing me out there [with] a walker," Tupa joked. "So we'll see what happens."
Yards for Youth
The Redskins Charitable Foundation announced the start of the Yards for Youth campaign to raise money for 25 youth-based organizations in the area. At www.yardsforyouth.org, donors may pledge a dollar amount for each offensive yard gained by the Redskins this season. For more information, call 703-726-7211.