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Gramatica hearing kind words

RICK STROUD
Published September 4, 2004

TAMPA - Martin Gramatica's faulty foot has been the biggest negative of the preseason. But coach Jon Gruden is standing by his kicker.

"I'm going to try to use a more optimistic approach than to keep talking about it," Gruden said. "I'm confident in his abilities. Obviously, we're disappointed that he's had some misses, but we're confident he's going to be a heck of a kicker for us. We've just got to keep working to resolve any problems that are in his game right now."

Gramatica missed a 47-yard field goal in Thursday night's 17-9 win over the Texans. He finished the preseason 6-for-10, or roughly the same percentage he slumped to last season.

"We still think he's going to be a real positive asset to our team," Gruden said "We think he's a great kicker. He's just got to make his kicks."

THE PITTS: Running back Michael Pittman had a great preseason, with 5.2 yards per carry, catching passes out of the backfield and picking up blitzes.

But that will be his last action for a while. Pittman began serving his three-game suspension Friday for being a repeat violator of the league's conduct policy.

He will spend the next month at the IMG Academy in Bradenton following a workout program designed for him by the Bucs.

"I think he's going to miss football, number one," Gruden said. "He's going to miss the competition and all the things that a football player loves to do. But we have a routine that we've tried to work out with him.

"He's got to practice in pads, he's got to work out in pads, even though he'll probably be working individually. The contact, the instinctiveness, the timing of things, are three weeks out of the equation now. He won't be able to get any of that stuff done. But he's got to continue to work hard on his conditioning, and when he comes back, obviously, we have to give him a lot of reps. I think he showed (Thursday) what kind of back he is. He's an all-purpose runner, receiver and protector."

THAT'S ALL, FOLKS: Brandon Bennett or Earnest Graham. Corey Ivy or Torrie Cox. Frank Murphy or Mark Jones.

Those are just a few of the decisions that the Bucs might be chewing on this weekend as they begin the process of trimming their roster by 18 players to reach the 53-man limit Sunday.

"(Thursday's) game was the last real evaluation. Obviously, we're going to use it the best way we can," Gruden said. "A lot of guys played. We'll look at the health of the team, and certainly it will be a real tool in helping us make some calls that are going to be tough."

Gruden said several players released by the Bucs could find jobs with other teams: "Everybody's got the same problems. We're looking at everybody else's roster, just like people are looking at ours. It will be tough not to keep some players who may have earned their opportunities to be here, but that's been the case every year I've been a coach."

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