Versatile Pittman prepares for yet another role in Bucs offense Print
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Monday, 13 August 2007 16:02
NFL Headline News

 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) -Michael Pittman wants to help the Tampa Bay Buccaneers any way he can.
The versatile 10th-year pro is already the team's backup running back and an effective blocker and receiver when he spells Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams in third-down passing situations.
Now, with Mike Alstott out for the season with a neck injury that could end his career, Pittman is preparing to take on yet another role in coach Jon Gruden's offense as a potential starter at fullback.
``He hasn't promised me anything, but right now I'm in the rotation, and I'm the starting guy,'' Pittman said Monday, adding that one of the toughest things he's had to do is get accustomed to new responsibilities within the same plays.
``It's kind of difficult learning it right now. Right now I'm not really comfortable, but I'm getting better at it as the days go on, and that's when I can go out and show what I really can do at fullback,'' he said.
``The tailback position, I can pop in there without looking at the playbook. Coach calls a play I don't have to think about it twice, I just go out there and play. Now when they call the fullback formation, I have to think about it a couple of times. ... I'm just not in my comfort zone yet. It will come with time.''
Pittman, who played the first four seasons of his career with the Arizona Cardinals, was Tampa Bay's featured back from 2002-04. He has made his biggest impact as a receiver out of the backfield since the Bucs drafted Williams in 2005.
Pittman has 258 receptions, third most among NFL running backs behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Tiki Barber, over the past five seasons. Last year, he rushed for 245 yards on 50 carries and caught 47 passes for 405 yards.
Eager to contribute wherever he can, Pittman embraces the idea of being a lead blocker for Williams, who ran for 1,178 yards as a rookie before slumping to 798 yards in 2006. It's an opportunity to punish defenders, who normally would be looking to hit him.
``I block all the time,'' Pittman said. ``It's just me running downhill at them now.''
B.J. Askew was listed second on the depth chart when the Bucs placed Alstott on injured reserve last week. However, Pittman started Friday night's preseason opener against the New England Patriots.
Reserve running back Earnest Graham could be a candidate for playing time at fullback, too, and the Bucs signed Zach Tuiasosopo on Monday. Gruden even threw tight end Alex Smith's name into the mix.
``It all depends on what we're going to try to do in the game plan,'' Gruden said. ``We've got four guys who will contribute at that position, and that's the bottom line.''
There also may be times when Gruden uses Williams and Pittman in two-back sets in which the fullback is not expected to be the lead blocker. The Bucs have experimented with the idea in the past, but rarely used it in a game.
Meanwhile, Pittman is not concerned about how taking on an added role will affect his production or preparation for games. He's confident he can handle whatever he's asked to do on a particular day.
``I know the tailback position like the back of my hand. I already know that, so I don't have to practice that position,'' he said.
``Right now I'm concentrating on fullback. I'll get my tailback reps. I'm still the third-down back and backup to Caddy. If something happens and he goes down, of course I'll pop back to tailback.''
 

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