© St. Petersburg Times, published August 24, 2002
TAMPA -- Running back Michael Pittman, who sprained his right ankle on the opening day of training camp and re-aggravated it Aug. 16 against the Jaguars, likely won't play tonight against the Redskins.
Though coach Jon Gruden said he will make a final decision around game time, playing Pittman on an ankle that is not 100 percent doesn't strike Gruden as being sensible. Pittman did not take part in Friday's brief walk-through.
"Pittman is very questionable at this stage," Gruden said. "There's a chance he might not play in the game. We rested him (Friday), and we'll rest him (Saturday morning). His ankle hasn't gotten severely worse, but we just feel that he might be better served staying off that thing."
Due in part to his injury and to the team's decision to limit the role of starters in the first two preseason games, Pittman has had only six carries.
"You really can't go out there and be the person you want to be because in the back of your head you really don't want to roll your ankle or do this or that," Pittman said. "I'm not trying to make excuses, but that's the truth. I'm just trying to work through it. I have to do whatever it takes to get better."
Pittman said the tender ankle has caused some indecision on the practice field.
"There's a couple times when I think about it," Pittman said. "On that last option route (in Thursday's practice), I thought about if I stopped real hard I would hurt my ankle, and I ended up dropping the ball. It's kind of frustrating for me."
OTHER INJURIES: Linebacker Shelton Quarles (calf) did not take part in Friday's practice but did some running afterward. He is expected to start. Backup Nate Webster, who has spent significant time with the first team, will play a lot. Defensive tackle Warren Sapp (knee) also is expected to start but should be in on only about 15 plays. Defensive tackle Buck Gurley (ankle) and guard Cosey Coleman (knee) will not play.
EVALUATION TIME: With 88 players on the roster, the Bucs will spend much of tonight's game evaluating players. Teams must trim to 65 by Tuesday.
"You've got to try to be as creative as you can and try to put guys in position where you want to see them," Gruden said. "So, you'll see the starters in the first half, most part of the first half, some less, some a little more. You'll see a lot of players, rapid substitutions and that's just the way we're going to play the preseason."
NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: Receiver/punt returner Karl "The Truth" Williams has had an extremely quiet training camp but does not appear to have been forgotten by the coaching staff. Williams, who has not had many opportunities, does not have a catch in the preseason and has only one punt return.
Gruden said Williams might get a chance to return punts against the Redskins but reiterated the Bucs need to see more of seventh-round draft pick Aaron Lockett. At 5-7, 155 pounds, Lockett's best chance of making the team is as a punt returner.
"(Karl's) had a great camp, and we have a pretty good read on Karl Williams," Gruden said. "Karl's the all-time leading punt returner here so we want to see what Aaron Lockett can do. He might take one or two back (tonight), but Karl Williams is a very good football player that we like a lot."
TURF TOES: After three minicamps and days of "organized team activities," the practice fields at One Buc Place were in bad shape. Just before the Bucs left for Lake Buena Vista, the grounds crew uprooted both surfaces and laid down new sod. The new surface is getting rave reviews.
"Yeah, we tore it up," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "In the spring, we ended up playing on dirt. We were sliding all over the place. We're lucky somebody didn't get hurt. We wore it out so much with all the minicamps and stuff, and we actually started wearing down Disney as well. But we got back and the nice thing is the grass is green again."
Added linebacker Derrick Brooks: "It seems a little deeper than normal and a little softer. It's a lot like our stadium."
HE KNEW IT ALL ALONG: There has been much debate about whether Redskins coach Steve Spurrier's offensive system will work in the NFL. But Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said he isn't surprised they have been lighting up the scoreboard in preseason (110 points in three games).
"I knew without a doubt. Good coaches are good coaches," Kiffin said. "There are 11 guys on offense and 11 on defense (in the NFL and in college). Guys that are good in college are going to be good in the pros. Now, it doesn't always work out that way. But if you're a good coach, you're a good coach."
Kiffin said Spurrier's success is not just favoring a pass-happy attack, but having a well-planned method for it.
"A lot of people try to throw the ball a lot, but they don't have a system or a concept. He has a concept," Kiffin said. "He throws it a lot, but he's not just throwing the ball around. He knows what he's doing."