Where Does Alstott Fit In With Bucs?

With five other running backs in the mix, Mike Alstott may see limited time in what is likely to be his final season.

By Jeff Berlinicke

Along with Lee Roy Selmon and Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott is probably one of the defining players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers history.

It was Alstott who was made legendary by ESPN's Chris Berman for his ability to make three yards out of nothing, sending defensive behemoths sprawling on the turf of the Bog Sombrero.

In these days of salary cap issues, Alstott, who has seen his best days, was expected to be gone by the time training camp rolled around for 2005. Instead, the Bucs, looking to avoid the public relations disaster of 2004 when they allowed John Lynch to slip away, elected to sign Alstott to a hefty contract for what is likely to be his final season.

That pleases the Bucs fans who might have mutinied otherwise, but where does Alstott fit in to the 2005 Bucs? He's making decent money and is probably fifth on the depth chart entering camp. Besides that, his style of play doesn't fit well with coach Jon Gruden's west coast offense.

Right now, first-round draft pick Carnell Williams is clearly the key back in the Bucs offense, with Michael Pittman – if he returns – the No. 2 back. Gruden had good things to say about returning back Earnest Graham who played sparingly last season, and free agent Derek Watson has the potential to be the surprise player in camp. Watson had off the field problems in college, but his talent is limitless and the main reason he wasn't chosen was clearly that his issues scared away scouts. And no one can discount Charles Garner who was brought in last season to fill in during Pittman's suspension and missed the entire season after suffering an injury in the opening game.

That leaves Alstott languishing behind at least four backs with a weighty contract on a team desperate to cut salary.

Gruden deserves credit for keeping a roster spot open for a fan favorite who will likely finish his entire career as a Buccaneer. He was there in the popsickle orange uniform days when crowds of 30,000 were the norm. There are other teams who could use Alstott's straight-ahead style much better than Gruden. In fact, during his closing comments at the end of the June mini-camp, Gruden named all five other backs before tossing out Alstott's name as an afterthought.

It will be interesting to see where Alstott fits in to an offense that goes against everything he brings to the team.

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