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Alstott indicators point to return if ...
By RICK STROUD
Published January 29, 2006
TAMPA - It sure seemed like goodbye.
There were long, sentimental frolics on the field after the Jan. 1 game at Raymond James Stadium with his family, plenty of hugs and even some tears.
But Mike Alstott may not have played his last game. There are increasing indications the fullback is leaning toward returning if the Bucs will have him.
Before embarking on an offseason to contemplate retirement, Alstott asked running backs coach Art Valero for an honest assessment. No player wants to overstay his welcome, certainly not a six-time Pro Bowl player and a beloved icon like the A-Train.
Valero didn't hesitate when he told Alstott he could still get it done. Before the 2005 season Alstott had real concerns about his role. He wanted to be involved in the offense in some capacity and on the field as much as possible.
As the season unfolded, Alstott's role became more clearly defined. He was a starter, a lead blocker for rookie of the year Cadillac Williams. In the most critical game of the season Alstott responded with two touchdowns and the dramatic two-point conversion against the Redskins. He scored seven touchdowns, his most since 2002. Not bad for a 32-year-old who had 59 touches all season. He was named an alternate in the Pro Bowl.
Coach Jon Gruden is on record saying he would do anything in his power to convince Alstott to return. By the same token, Gruden is easily annoyed at the inevitable and persistent questioning of Alstott's decreased touches.
Alstott is scheduled to earn $1.5-million in 2006. Certainly, it's not about money. What Alstott has to decide is whether he has some football left in him. He says he would not consider playing for another team or moving his young family from Tampa Bay.
The Bucs have considerable salary cap issues to work through. But if Alstott wants to return, if Valero and Gruden and others really believe he can still play at high level, what should stop him?
After all, this is the team that believed receiver Tim Brown and tackle Todd Steussie were worth a full season long after their skills had eroded. Alstott still has something to offer.
BUCS BITS: The Bucs have asked for permission to interview Falcons assistant defensive backs coach Gill Byrd, who is a candidate to replace Mike Tomlin as secondary coach. But Tampa Bay, which routinely denies its assistants permission to speak with other teams, is getting a dose of its own medicine. It's becoming increasingly likely that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, an astute judge of coaching talent, may dip into the college ranks, as he did when the Bucs hired Tomlin and linebackers coach Joe Barry. ... GM Bruce Allen met with Tom Condon last week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Condon represents defensive tackle Chris Hovan, defensive end Simeon Rice, receiver Michael Clayton, running back Michael Pittman and tackle Kenyatta Walker.