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Bidwell's Next Up At Punter

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Another year, another new punter for the Redskins.

Of course, the Redskins are hoping that stability arrives in the form of Josh Bidwell, the 11-year veteran punter who signed with the club on March 23.

It was only a year ago that Hunter Smith was considered a long-term answer at punter. He followed Ryan Plackemeier, Durant Brooks, Derrick Frost, Andy Groom, Tom Tupa and Bryan Barker, among others this decade.

Now it's Bidwell's turn.

Bidwell entered the NFL as a 1999 fourth-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers. He punted for the Packers for five seasons and then joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through last season.

Some of his teammates, especially offensive and defensive linemen who do grunt work in the trenches, may not agree with him, but Bidwell believes punting is a critical part of the game.

"We really stressed punting in my years in Tampa with [former Buccaneers head coach] Jon Gruden," he said. "It was part of the offense. Before that time, I was told to just 'Kick it away, let's live to play another day.' The way we used the punt down in Tampa made me aware that it is a pretty valuable asset."

Bidwell said the priority was to pin offenses deep in their own territory. He had to use directional punts to give coverage enough time to get downfield and minimize long returns.

"You have to be able to do a lot of different things and you have to be pretty comfortable doing them," he said. "Having a good punter is extremely valuable."

Bidwell is in attendance at OTAs this week. Coaches excused him for three OTA days last week for family reasons, according to head coach Mike Shanahan.

Bidwell missed all of last season due to a hip injury suffered in Buccaneers training camp last year.

He is recovered from the injury and he is full-go to participate in OTAs and the June 16-18 mini-camp.

"I'm making sure I don't overdo it and I'm keeping my leg strong," he said. "I have not had any issues at practice."

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Bidwell said he brings "solid leadership" to the Redskins' special teams. In addition to punting, he is expected to serve as the primary holder on field goal attempts.

"I'm a veteran guy who has been in pretty much every situation," he said.

For his career, Bidwell has 727 punts for a 42.8-yard average and a long of 68 yards. He is expert at placing punts inside the 20, with 209 in his career and 124 with Tampa Bay, a franchise record.

He earned Pro Bowl honors with the Buccaneers in 2005 after he averaged 45.6 yards per punt, with a 37.5 net average.

Beyond his success, Bidwell said he continues to approach the NFL on a learning curve.

For example, this year he has had to adjust to a new climate in Washington, D.C.

And he has had to learn to hold for a left-footed kicker (Justin Medlock) for the first time -- something that he admits has been a challenge.

"I always keep on learning," Bidwell said. "At this stage of my career, I have to do more just to be more consistent. Wind conditions are difficult to deal with for any punter and it's something I haven't had to deal with for quite some time because Tampa was not the windiest place.

"So I'm going through a learning curve out here with the difference in the wind conditions on the practice fields...You're always trying to improve. If you're stagnant, then you're in decline, and I don't want that to happen."

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