Louis Murphy worked his way up with Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- At the end of the preseason, it didn’t seem like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought very much of wide receiver Louis Murphy. At the end of the regular season, it’s obvious the Bucs value Murphy significantly.

What happened in between? Murphy earned playing time and respect. He emerged as Tampa Bay’s third receiver and collected 31 catches for 380 yards and two touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy who was released at the end of the preseason. But the Bucs quickly brought Murphy back and he began carving out a role. His season ended a little early due to a knee injury, but the Bucs wanted to make sure Murphy stuck around.

Murphy was signed to a three-year contract extension Friday.

“You want to reward players that take the long way and earn it the right way," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. “We like him. When he was healthy and ready to go as our third receiver, he did some positive things as our third receiver. He’s somebody that we want to keep building with."

Murphy, who grew up in nearby St. Petersburg, said he wanted to stay with the Bucs instead of testing free agency. Despite the team's 2-13 record, Murphy said he believes the Bucs are heading in the right direction and he wants to be with them for the turnaround.

“I believe in this team," Murphy said. “I believe in Coach Lovie. I believe in the organization. I believe in all the guys that are in that locker room regardless of what the record says. I believe that we’re going to be contenders in the future, and I want to be a part of it. I want to see it turn around."