Pittman could get more playing time
TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Alstott knew right away that something was wrong.
The Tampa Bay fullback felt his right knee pop when he was tackled for a 4-yard loss during the second half of a 19-7 victory over Chicago and will be sidelined at least a month with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
The six-time Pro Bowl selection was relieved the injury was not more severe. He missed most of last season after undergoing neck surgery and felt he was just beginning to regain form as a bruising short-yardage runner.
"It's a setback, but a small setback," Alstott said Monday, adding that he felt fortunate that the injury was to the MCL, rather than the anterior cruciate ligament.
The ninth-year pro was hurt late in the third quarter Sunday when he was tackled by linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and landed awkwardly in a pile. He fumbled at his own 27 on the play but the Bears -- trailing 13-7 at the time -- were unable to convert the turnover into points.
"Somebody had my lower leg and it was just basically pinned. When they bent the upper half of my body, I just felt my knee pop," Alstott said.
"It's frustrating. But you have to look positive at the issue that maybe I'll only miss two games and I'll be back the fourth week because we have a bye this week. That's my frame of mind. I'm still hungry to play. I still want to play. ... I'm going to do everything in my power to resolve this and get out there again," he said.
The Bucs (2-5) have already lost running back Charlie Garner to season-ending knee surgery. The absence of Alstott, who is more of a running back than a traditional fullback, will probably mean an increased workload for Michael Pittman.
Pittman, who sat out the first three games of the season while serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, rushed for a season-high 109 yards on 23 carries against Chicago.
Alstott gained 29 yards on seven attempts against the Bears. He has 137 yards on 37 carries and one touchdown this season, and he's third on the team with 18 receptions for 97 yards.
Coach Jon Gruden said he has not decided who will move into the lineup at fullback. Greg Comella and Jameel Cook are behind Alstott on the depth chart, but neither is the type of runner the team prefers in short-yardage situations.
Pittman took up the slack on third-and-short against Chicago.
"We are going to look carefully and make a decision on the combination of backs for the next game," Gruden said. "Pittman will get tired ... and we are going to have a need for some able replacements."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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