Bennett looking for chance to run for Bucs

He's plenty fast — and plenty hungry to take a stab at a larger role in any offense. Despite the complicated nature of Tamap Bay's offense, new running back Micahel Bennett said Wednesday that he hopes to be a part of the game plan this weekend against Detroit.

Michael Bennett is over the shock of the trade that sent him from Kansas City to Tampa Bay on Monday. Now he must learn the offense, one his new teammate and fellow back Earnest Graham called "one of the most complicated in the NFL" last week.

Bennett is getting a taste of what Graham talked about.

"It's a West Coast system," Bennett said. "This is like me learning Chinese in 48 hours."

But the seventh-year pro appeared to be happy to be in Tampa Bay and will likely see playing time when the Buccaneers travel to Detroit this weekend. Just how much and in what role will be determined.

"I just ran a few plays today and I feel like I'm a rookie all over again," Bennett said. "As the week goes on I think I'll learn more about my role."

Bennett arrived in Tampa at 11 a.m. Tuesday and went straight from the airport to One Buc Place, where he met the coaching staff and spent about eight hours with Jon Gruden's massive playbook. Bennett spent the first five years of his career in Minnesota, where Bennett said the coaching staff used some West Coast offense principles.

But it was nothing like this, Bennett said.

"They had me running wide receiver routes (on Wednesday) and I've never done that before," Bennett said. "Some of the things in Minnesota were similar. But this is still a foreign language for me."

That's why, Bennett said, he expects the Bucs to use him in a package of plays this weekend.

Running backs coach Art Valero worked with Bennett for four hours after practice on Wednesday going over the playbook. For most of the Bucs, it's a process that began in the offseason — and it's not easy to learn on the fly.

"He's had so many years in Kansas City where everything was a name," Valero said. "They were in a digital system, where their pass routes were like, ‘999 or 887' instead of calling them out. And they were a name protection team instead of a numbers protection team like we are, which is night and day."

Acquiring Bennett gives the Buccaneers another burner to go with wide receiver Joey Galloway, along with a back looking for an opportunity to prove that his 2002 Pro Bowl season wasn't a fluke.

Kansas City's coaches timed Bennett at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash this summer. Bennett, who ran track at Wisconsin and ran a 9.98 in the 100-meter dash, is capable of taking the football the distance every play.

The Buccaneers know that well, which could be why they traded for him. In 2002, the season during which Bennett rushed for 1,296 yards, he blew past the Buccaneers defense at Raymond James Stadium for an 85-yard touchdown run.

"It was a great big run against a great team at the time," Bennett said. "It was a great coming out party for me. I enjoyed it."

Bucs defensive end Greg Spires played on that 2002 team but didn't remember the run.

"I'm happy he's here now," Spires said. "Maybe we can get him to run an 80-yard (touchdown) run for next week. That was a pretty good defense. Hopefully we can get him in a situation where we can give him the ball and let his speed take over."

Valero did remember that run.

"I can remember sitting in Raymond James and watching him take off like a rocket," Valero said. "He shot up the middle and went yard in a hurry. Against a damn good defense. I've always had that in the back of my mind — ‘Who is this guy?'"

His second season proved to be the high water mark of Bennett's career. The following season, 2003, Bennett spent the first seven weeks on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury. Bennett never truly reclaimed his starting job, and he played out his contract in Minnesota without surpassing 500 yards in any of the next three seasons.

Bennett then left for New Orleans in free agency in 2006, but the Saints selected running back Reggie Bush with the No. 2 overall selection, compelling the Saints to deal Bennett to Kansas City during training camp.

Bennett found himself as a backup again, this time for Larry Johnson.

Bennett sees Tampa Bay as a fresh start to prove he can be a primary back.

"I've never been at a place where I can be that guy," Bennett said. "Not that it will be here or anywhere else. But the opportunity has presented itself to get on the field and show this organization what I can do so maybe I can be here for a while. Being in one place (like Kansas City) and having the coaches utilize you, when you have a Larry Johnson, it's hard (to get on the field)."

Bennett expects his playing time to change, potentially as soon as this weekend.

As long as he can find his way around town and the offense.

"I got lost this morning — in the city and in the facility," Bennett said with a chuckle.


Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.


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