By Jeff Berlinicke
Michael Pittman has fallen a long way in three years. From Super Bowl hero, to an NFL suspension, to losing his job as the main ball carrier for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittman is only hoping to keep his job while trying to get back into the good graces of Bucs coach Jon Gruden.
It won't be easy. Pittman ran the ball for yardage after returning from his league-induced suspension, but fumbled six times in 13 games, about five more than Gruden would normally tolerate.
Pittman was the Bucs carrier out of desperation last season. Fullback Mike Alstott's career had clearly started to wind down even though he will return this season, and newcomer Charles Garner was injured in the first game. The team lost all three games during Pittman's absence on the way to a 5-11 season.
It wasn't Pittman's amount of fumbles; it was the timing. Most came with the game on the line, and Gruden expressed frustration throughout the season.
With the fifth pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Bucs went for Carnell Williams, a dependable back out of Auburn and have pretty much given him the job to lose. So where does that leave Pittman and his hefty contract as well as a tainted reputation throughout the league?
Bucs running backs coach Art Valero, has been working hard with Pittman during spring mini-camps trying to get him to hold onto the football. Pittman, who spends an enormous time in the weight room working on his biceps, has been working harder on just holding onto the football. If he can find his way back into Gruden's grace, he could be invaluable as a third down option out of the backfield and also to spell Williams, especially when Williams hits the typical rookie wall around Week 10.
There's no reason Pittman can't be an asset to the team as the No. 2 back, but he'll have to hold onto the football if he wants to hold onto a roster spot.
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