TAMPA, Fla. -- For Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Bernard Reedy a lot rides on Thursday night's fourth preseason game. He could have a strong performance and make the 53-man roster or go back to making $11 an hour as a a wheelchair transporter, which is what he does in the offseason.
There's also the possibility that the 25-year-old former undrafted free agent out of Toledo can join the practice squad, which is what he did for a portion of last season.
None of those things crosses his mind when he lines up with the offense and the ball is snapped, or when he's hovering around the 20- or 30-yard line ready to return a punt.
“When I’m running out there, I try to block everything out, just think about the moment," Reedy said. "Coach [Dirk Koetter] always says, ‘Be where your feet are.’ So I always try to think, ‘Be in that moment.’ So have fun, be blessed and be grateful. And just know that this is what you’ve been doing since you were young and this is what you’ve always wanted to do.”
For Reedy, this is all he has ever wanted to do. He grew up in nearby St. Petersburg and dreamed of playing for the Bucs. In fact, he still lives in the same childhood home he grew up in and makes the 45-minute commute over the dreaded Howard Frankland Bridge every day for work.
His loyalties to the Bucs stretch so far that even when the phone rang last season,after he'd recovered from a torn meniscus and other teams indicated interest, he politely declined. He was waiting for Tampa Bay.
That call didn't come until the second week in December, when they signed him to the practice squad. He was activated to the 53-man roster for the final two games.
That knee injury was sustained during the fourth preseason game, when the Bucs played the Washington Redskins in the midst of Tropical Storm Hermine. It was pouring down rain the entire time and the field was soggy, a recipe for disaster when it comes to knees.
He caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin with 1:02 remaining in that game, the Bucs' only touchdown of the night. He also had a 22-yard kickoff return and two punt returns, averaging 8.5 yards per return. But he muffed two of his punts during the game, but still performed well enough to possibly make the team, had it not been for the injury.
There's no room for hesitation or second-guessing himself with those punt returns either. He got a heavy dose of them last week when punt returner and slot receiver Adam Humphries left the game with a hip injury.
“I’m just looking at it like, ‘They’re gonna have to hit me every chance [they get] because I’m going to catch it every chance I get," Reedy said. "If they’re not gonna run down there and hit me, I’m going to try to catch them every chance I get.”
So far, Reedy has enjoyed a consistent preseason. He has caught all six of his targets for 65 yards, including a 25-yard reception last week -- the second-longest pass play of the Bucs' preseason. He has averaged 9.5 yards on six punt returns, including a 22-yarder.
He's fighting a battle for the fifth and final receiver spot behind Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Humphries and third-round draft pick Chris Godwin. The Bucs could take a sixth receiver, but there are no guarantees, and Donteea Dye, Freddie Martino and Josh Huff all have NFL game experience.
“I just try to go out there and be comfortable like my first couple games [of the preseason]," Reedy said. "Just relaxing and having fun, knowing that the game is still football.”
“I think at the end of the day, I’m grateful for the life lessons that I learned not being able to play after I got my surgery," Reedy said. "To go out there and perform, knowing that my knee is fully healthy -- it’s just been a blessing to still be able to play."