tampabay.com

Pittman honored for his big game

By RICK STROUD
Published November 11, 2004


TAMPA - Running back Michael Pittman was named the named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 128 yards and tying a team record with three touchdowns in a 34-31 over Kansas City.

Pittman's performance included a career-long 78-yard TD run to start the second half - the longest run from scrimmage in team history.

"I've really got to thank my offensive line and the tight ends and fullbacks and the guys blocking for me," Pittman said. "Because honestly, without them, I wouldn't have gotten any yards or Offensive Player of the Week. I'm just happy, this is my first time ever (getting the award) and it's a good feeling right now."

It was the first time in Pittman's career that he had rushed for 100 yards or more in consecutive games. He totaled 237 rushing yards and four touchdowns in wins over the Bears and Chiefs. Pittman is the first Bucs running back to win the award since Warrick Dunn in Week 14 of the 2000 season. The Bucs are 3-2 since Pittman returned from a three-game suspension for repeat violation of the player conduct policy.

AHANOTU RETURNS: Defensive end Chidi Ahanotu has made stops with the Rams, Bills, 49ers and Dolphins since leaving the Bucs. But he always wanted to return to Tampa Bay. Ahanotu got his wish Tuesday when he was signed to a one-year contract following a workout with the team.

"I actually asked to be traded when I was here," Ahanotu said Wednesday. "I needed to get out of here for a lot of reasons. I would never look back and never regret that decision because at that time I knew I had to go. I knew I would come back one day."

Ahanotu will provide depth to a defensive line depleted by season-ending injuries to Ellis Wyms and Damian Gregory. Starting under tackle Anthony McFarland is questionable with a triceps injury.

NEW KICKER: The Bucs signed former Orlando Predators kicker Jay Taylor to the practice squad.

Taylor played for Jay Gruden, the brother of the Bucs coach, and led the Arena Football League with a .720 field goal percentage (18-of-25) with a long of 50 yards. He also had stints with the Browns, Bills and Dolphins and the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe.

Taylor's signing appears to be insurance if kicker Martin Gramatica doesn't recover from a strained right hip flexor. The Bucs also have been unhappy with his performance. This season, Gramatica is 1-of-5 on field goal attempts from 40-49 yards.

Taylor said after playing in the AFL, where the uprights are separated by 9-feet, makes the NFL target of 18 feet, 6 inches look enormous.

"Oh, God. It looks amazing," Taylor said. "They have the small goal posts as well. I look over at that and think, "Wow!' You look at both of them and realize how much nicer it is to kick at the outdoor posts.

"Back home, there weren't college goal posts around, so I kicked a lot at light poles and all that. And, you know, the light poles might be 2-3 feet wide. If you can hit that or come close to hitting it, you'd better be able to hit something 18-feet wide."

INJURIES: McFarland (triceps) did not practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Atlanta. Gramatica (hip flexor) did not kick on Wednesday. QB Chris Simms is questionable with a left shoulder bruise. Fullback Mike Alstott (sprained MCL) is out.