Buccaneers' versatile Keith Tandy made big impression in rare start

TAMPA, Fla. -- Keith Tandy is one of the team's special-teams stalwarts, but he also has been a valuable utility player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Whenever there is an injury at corner or safety, Tandy has been called on to perform.

Tandy got his first start of the season Sunday against Chicago, filling in for injured safety Chris Conte. Tandy, a sixth-round pick out of West Virginia in 2012, came away with a career-high 10 tackles in just his sixth career start. A free agent at the end of the season, Tandy may have earned more playing time in the season finale against Carolina, regardless of Conte's availability.

"Keith came in and did a good job," Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith said Monday. "He started off strong with a big tackle. Keith has been a guy that when you need him in a different area, whether it is nickel or either one of the safety positions, he's come in and had pretty good play."

In 11 games as a reserve, Tandy had 17 tackles and one pass breakup. He said he is always ready for whatever role the team needs him to fulfill.

"You have to put in the extra work and study the game," Tandy said. "If you understand the concept of the defense and the concept with what the offense is trying to do, you can put yourself in the right position. I try to always come in early and get extra film in and I'm always looking at my playbook, so if anybody goes down I feel I can play that position or any other position."

That versatility has kept him in the league and could make him a valuable commodity next season. But he said he has tried to keep his contract status out of his mind this season.

"You think about it but you don't look too much into it," Tandy said. "I've been here long enough but I know how the business works. You start thinking about stuff like that and you start putting too much pressure on yourself. You see guys do things they don't normally do, so I've learned to put that aside and focus on what my job is on that play.

"I definitely like what we have going here," he continued. "You can definitely see we're trending in the right direction. We have a couple of pieces, just a couple of small things we keep messing up every game that's causing us to lose games. Still, we definitely see we're going in the right direction and I want to a part of that."