LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -Earnest Graham was right. All he needed to prove himself was a chance to play.
Undrafted out of college, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back supposedly lacked the size and speed necessary to be a productive pro - a perception he laid to rest with a breakout season in 2007.
Primarily a contributor on special teams in his first three years, the 5-foot-9, 225-pound Graham not only made the most of an opportunity created by injuries to Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams and Michael Pittman but played his way into Tampa Bay's long-term plans.
``He's no mystery to anybody anymore,'' coach Jon Gruden said. ``He's a really good football player.''
The Bucs probably wouldn't have won the NFC South without the hard-running Graham handling a heavy workload over the last 10 games of the season, finishing with 898 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
The 28-year-old set a franchise record by scoring a TD in six consecutive games and was the team's third-leading receiver with 49 receptions.
Not bad for a guy who was fourth-string behind Williams, Pittman and Mike Alstott entering training camp.
A year later, he arrived at the team's Disney World training camp with a three-year, $10.5 million contract extension and a firm grip on the starting job, though he'll likely share playing time with a couple of former 1,000-yard runners, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett.
``It was big, mainly from a recognition standpoint,'' Graham said of the new contract. ``I got the chance to step up last year and I showed I could play, so it is good to be rewarded for that.''
Now, he intends to keep the same humble attitude that helped him stay in the league long enough to get his break.
``I still feel I have a lot left to prove. I am in a similar situation that I was in this time last year and so I am keeping that same mindset,'' the former Florida standout said. ``It was different this year because I came in and was not on any special teams depth charts. But my drive is within myself, and I still feel like I have a long way to go.''
Graham welcomes the competition from Dunn, who has rejoined the Bucs after spending the past six season in Atlanta. He also thinks there's a vital role, too, for Bennett, who had a minimal impact after being obtained from Kansas City at the trade deadline last season.
The versatile Dunn, 33, spent his first five seasons with Tampa Bay and is one of 22 players to rush for more than 10,000 yards. He also has been an effective receiver throughout his career.
Bennett, a former sprinter who gained nearly 1,300 yards and made the Pro Bowl for Minnesota in 2002, offers another option with Williams still recovering from knee surgery and Pittman in Denver after signing with the Broncos as a free agent.
``Every team in the league has backs with different qualities. We are going to try our best to try and utilize Warrick, and we are going to also try to accentuate what Earnest did well last year,'' Gruden said.
Dunn is excited to be back where he began his career. Although his production slipped last season when Atlanta's offense struggled without Michael Vick, he feels he has plenty to offer the Bucs.
``Because I'm old doesn't mean I've lost it. I'm still hungry. I'm young at heart and I still have the desire to go out and play at a high level,'' Dunn said. ``They're going to give me the opportunity to prove that I can still play.''
Graham expects all of them to play key roles.
``Coach Gruden ... is going to find a way to get us all in the game,'' Graham said. ``He is a guy that will work late and come up with creative packages so that we will be successful.''

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