Bucs unsung hero Shepard stepped up Sunday

Photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire

Santa Clara, CA-

Wide Receiver Russell Shepard is one of the players in the Buccaneers locker room who keeps everyone else there loose, a self-deprecating sort who was at his self-deprecating best long after he’d turned in his best game ever during the Bucs 34-17 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

“Man, I feel good about today,’’ Shepard said while standing inside the Bucs locker room at Levi’s Stadium. “I mean, I just produced about three-fourths of my total career yards all in one game. You can’t help but be happy with that, right?’’

That depends on perspective, of course. No matter how you look at it, though, it was a big day for Shepard, the fourth-year special teams ace who moonlights now and then as a wide receiver and wasn’t kidding about the numbers he produced.

Prior to Sunday, the seldom-used Shepard had caught 10 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown as an NFL wideout. Against the 49ers he caught five passes for 77 yards and scored his second career touchdown on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Jameis Winston that gave the Bucs the lead for good at 17-14.

According to Shepard, it was only right that he had such a big day against San Francisco. It was 49ers coach Chip Kelly, after all, who cut Shepard from his first NFL gig, releasing form the 2013 Eagles team that first gave Shepard a shot at the NFL.

As a result Shepard said he went into Sunday’s game with a more of a “chip’’ on his shoulder than he usually does (get it? Chip). That’s why he was elated with the big game he had, but he certainly wasn’t the only one who was pleased with the breakout performance.

“I was proud of him,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “Shep’s a hard guy not to like. He’s got an infectious personality. He’s a fun guy to be around, a fun guy in meetings, a guy who can laugh at himself.

“I like guys like that. I like being around guys like that and that touchdown he had, on that double move he made, we’ve been working on that for about two years. I mean we knew we’d need some guys to step up with Vincent Jackson out (knee) and he did.’’

Shepard is hoping to get the chance to step up more. Though he didn’t get the start against the 49ers (Cecil Shorts did), he’s hopeful he’ll continue to get a chance to prove his worth as a pass catcher because he says he’s got more plays like that touchdown catch in him.

“I’ve got some plays that have probably been three or four years in the making in me,’’ he joked. “But seriously, I just hope I gave my coaches and my teammates the confidence to count on me to go out there and make plays for this team, because I know I have that confidence in myself.’’

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