Alstott's Future Still Uncertain

April 5 – Tampa Bay Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott took part in both of Friday's mini-camp practices, but his days as a Pewter Pirate could still be numbered. The Buccaneers are trying to restructure the A-Train's contract in order to lower his cap figure and avoid paying him a $2 million bonus on April 15. While there is still time remaining to work out a deal, Bucs general manager Rich McKay isn't convinced both he and Alstott's agent will agree on a deal within the next 10 days.

Tampa Bay Pro Bowl fullback Mike Alstott's days on the Pewter Pirates' ship may be coming dangerously close to an end. While the A-Train participated in both of Friday's mini-camp practices and is expected to partake throughout the remaining two days of camp, both Bucs general manager Rich McKay and Alstott's agent, Jim Steiner, have not made much progress in their efforts to restructure Alstott's salary in order to lower his cap figure and avoid paying him a $2 million roster bonus on April 15.

"There's no change," said McKay. "I've talked to his agent a couple of times. We've got a little time to work with it, so we'll take that time and try to work with it and see what we can do. We'd like to have Mike (Alstott) back, but that's one of those issues where you've got to work through the issues, including the salary cap and how it fits. That's what we're trying to do, and hopefully within the next seven to ten days, we'll have a resolution."

Alstott currently has a $4.6 million cap value this season and in 2003, Alstott's cap value catapults to $8.6 million, including another $2 million roster bonus.

Tampa Bay cannot leave Alstott's contract as is for a few reasons, but the main one is the fact that the Buccaneers recently signed running back Michael Pittman to a five-year contract worth $8.75 million. The Bucs can't afford to have the combination of Alstott and Pittman's salaries commited to their backfield. If the Bucs release Alstott before April 15, Tampa Bay will save approximately $3 million this season.

While Alstott understands the current situation, he has expressed a glaring interest in playing for Gruden and finishing his career where he started it as a rookie out of Purdue in 1996.

"I'm a Buccaneer," said Alstott. "Right now, I'm here. I plan on being a Buccaneer and I want to play for Coach (Gruden) and be here. With all of the contract situations, I'm not going to get into it too deep, but they have to work out a lot of things and I'm willing to work with it and help the team. I love it here and I love this situation right now. I want to finish my career as a Buccaneer."

When Gruden first landed in Tampa Bay to coach the Bucs, many pondered if Alstott would even have a role in his offense. But over the past couple of weeks, it has become increasingly clear that Gruden does indeed have some plans for the A-Train in his offense.

"I happen to be a Mike Alstott fan," said Gruden. "I'm not going to deny that. The guy is a good football player. A lot of people are saying he's a fullback, so he's not going to play in our offense. Mike Alstott never carried the ball as a fullback in Tampa. He carried the ball as a halfback in a two-back set and he carried the ball as a single-back runner. He's a Pro Bowl fullback, but he's been a halfback here when he's carried the ball. There will be plenty of things for Mike to do as a runner and receiver. But I'm not going to guarantee carriers or anything."

And for a guy who allegedly had no role in Gruden's offense, Alstott's comments certainly suggest he'll see some significant playing time.

"I'll be doing a little bit of everything," said Alstott. "Kind of like my role in the past. I'll play some halfback, fullback and there is so many different formations that I'll be playing in a lot of different sets."

But if McKay and Steiner cannot reach an agreement by April 15, Tampa Bay will likely opt to release Alstott, which is a decision McKay and Co. do not want to be forced to make.

"Well, it's harder for me, and it's harder for those who have been here because we drafted Mike (Alstott) and we saw what Mike did," said McKay. "So certainly, there are other factors. There's still a system in place that requires us to deal with making the best 53 we can, and that's what makes these decisions hard, and how figuring out how they fit. Mike has been a good football player for us and a loyal soldier and a tough guy. Hopefully it will be a situation which resolves itself in the way we'd all like it to."

As of Friday, McKay, who has made no secret about his interest in keeping Alstott with the Bucs, wasn't too optimistic that a deal was going to get done between the two sides. But McKay also realizes a lot of things can happen within the next 10 days.

"No, I don't necessarily feel comfortable that we're going to get it (a deal) done," said McKay. "I think it's just one of those things where we have to see what we can do and hope that it works out. I'd like it to work out. But we really haven't made a lot of progress. Usually these deals happen at the end, not the beginning."

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