Bucs seeking backfield help, inquire about Vikes' Moore
In the wake of the season-ending knee injury sustained by starting tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams last Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have inquired about the availability of Minnesota Vikings backup Mewelde Moore to bolster their backfield, sources from both teams confirmed.
The Vikings have requested a first-day draft pick for the fourth-year veteran -- a price tag Tampa Bay considers exorbitant.
For now, the two sides likely won't pursue a deal. That could change before the Oct. 16 trade deadline, perhaps depending on how the Bucs' tandem of Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham performs in replacing Williams in the lineup. Tampa Bay is likely to continue exploring other options as well.
Pittman, a 10th-year veteran with 76 career starts, rushed for 90 yards on 15 carries last Sunday, and he likely will assume the No. 1 role. Pittman's best season was in 2004, when he ran for 926 yards.
Tampa Bay put Williams on injured reserve on Wednesday, one day after undergoing successful season-ending surgery to repair the torn patellar tendon in his right knee.
Coach Jon Gruden said he doesn't think Williams' injury, which occurred when his right leg was caught awkwardly underneath his body when he was tackled at the end of a long run, is career-threatening.
"Everybody's talking about that," Gruden said after practice Wednesday. "I think any time you have a serious injury, people question how serious it was and if you can come back from it. Carnell's going to come back from this. He had surgery last night in Alabama. It was a success. Now, it's a matter of the injury healing properly and what will be a grueling rehab procedure."
Petitgout was also put on IR on Wednesday.
"We think he'll be just fine," the coach said of Petitgout, who will be replaced by second-year pro Donald Penn when the Bucs (3-1) travel to Indianapolis to face the unbeaten Super Bowl champion Colts (4-0) on Sunday.
Moore, 25, could be an interesting option for the Bucs at tailback. However, he also remains a valuable insurance policy for the Vikings. The fourth-year veteran has played in two games and been inactive for two others. He has rushed for 71 yards on 10 carries and has six receptions for 48 yards.
The former Tulane star, a fourth-round choice in the 2004 draft, is No. 3 on the Minnesota tailback depth chart. But nominal starter Chester Taylor missed two games in the first month of the season because of a hip problem and first-rounder Adrian Peterson has a history of injuries from his college days.
Still, with Moore in the final year of his original rookie contract and eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring, the Vikings might consider trading him rather than have him depart after the 2007 season and get nothing in return. For now, though, trade talks are on hold.
In 44 career games, including 11 starts, Moore has carried 254 times for 1,243 yards and one touchdown. His most active season was his 2004 rookie campaign in which he led the team with 662 rushing yards. He also has 116 catches for 1,093 yards and three touchdowns. Not blessed with great speed, the former Tulane star is nonetheless an elusive runner.
Moore has also averaged 10.5 yards and scored twice on 61 punt returns and has returned 25 kickoffs for a 19.3-yard average. But the Bucs are interested in him for his running skills from scrimmage, not as a returner.
In addition to Moore, the Bucs phoned the representative for veteran free agent tailback Corey Dillon, but the 10-year veteran indicated no interest in signing a deal. Dillon, 32, is the 14th-leading rusher in NFL history, with 11,241 yards. But he sought and was granted his release by New England this spring because he was considering retirement, although he has yet to file his retirement paperwork with the league.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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