TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -Tampa Bay's Michael Pittman could be sidelined up to two months with an ankle sprain that has the Buccaneers scrambling for experienced help at running back.
Coach Jon Gruden said Monday that the team was waiting for the results of an MRI exam, but that it appeared Pittman, injured during Sunday's 33-14 loss at Indianapolis, will be out six to eight weeks.
``It is a pretty good sprain, we do believe,'' Gruden said. ``That's a tough blow for us.''
It's the second straight week the coach delivered grim news on a precarious tailback situation.
Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams, the 2005 NFL offensive rookie of the year, was lost for the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee during a victory over Carolina on Sept. 30.
Pittman, the team's best receiver out of the backfield, replaced Williams as the starter against the Colts and hurt his right ankle when he was tackled by linebacker Tyjuan Hagler midway through the second quarter.
``You have to adjust,'' Gruden said. ``Cadillac was a guy that really was featured on first and second down. Pittman is a guy that has been featured on third down. Now we've lost both of those backs.''
With Williams and Pittman out, fourth-year pro Earnest Graham moves into the starting role after spending most of his career as a contributor on special teams. Rookie Kenneth Darby is the backup after beginning the season on the practice squad.
While Gruden conceded the Bucs are in the market for help, he wouldn't say if the team is pursuing a trade or is more likely to sign a free agent.
``I'm not going to get involved in the speculation,'' the coach said.
The Bucs entered Sunday's game averaging 137 yards rushing, but fell behind early and were limited to 17 yards on 12 attempts. Pittman carried five times for minus-1 yard and Graham finished with 11 yards on six carries.
Gruden said the Colts' domination was not indicative of how much progress the Bucs (3-2), who are tied with Carolina for first place in the NFC South, have made since finishing 4-12 a year ago.
Indianapolis outgained Tampa Bay 400 yards to 177 and controlled the ball to the point that the Bucs were only able to run 40 plays - the third-lowest number of snaps ever taken by a Colts opponent.
``I think we're a pretty good team. I realize the scoreboard and the statistics said a lot differently, but we think we're pretty good,'' the coach said. ``We're not the first team to go into that dome and be beaten. I just want to remind people of that.''
Tampa Bay's ability to move the ball also was affected by the absence of left tackle Luke Petitgout, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Second-year pro Donald Penn made his first NFL start against Indianapolis, drawing the assignment of blocking Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney.
``I thought he did some really good things,'' Gruden said. ``There weren't a lot of snaps to evaluate, but he did a good job. He really did.''

NFL Team Pages

Recent NFL Discussions

Top NFL Public Bets

#1 463 Green Bay Packers 85%
#2 468 New York Jets 83%
#3 471 Miami Dolphins 83%
#4 491 Minnesota Vikings 80%
#5 478 Arizona Cardinals 75%
#7 489 Philadelphia Eagles 73%
#8 469 Indianapolis Colts 70%
#9 483 Cincinnati Bengals 69%
#10 487 New York Giants 69%

NFL Futures

  • INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 3/1
  • GREEN BAY PACKERS 13/4
  • SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 7/2
  • NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 9/2
  • DENVER BRONCOS 5/1
  • DALLAS COWBOYS 6/1
  • PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 11/1
  • BALTIMORE RAVENS 12/1
  • PITTSBURGH STEELERS 12/1
  • ARIZONA CARDINALS 12/1