PewterReport.com has learned that fullback B.J. Askew had surgery on his left ankle on August 15. The veteran fullback missed a significant amount of time in training camp and did not play in the preseason contest against the New England Patriots due to the injury. The surgery was a scope procedure and is considered minor in nature. Askew should be ready for the regular season.
"I think he might be able to return next week. He'll be ready for the regular season opener," Bucs head coach Jon Gruden of Askew. "In some ways it's a blessing in disguise that we got the thing cleaned out so that he can play in a few weeks."
In 2007, Askew played in 13 games for the Bucs. He missed the last three contests due to a sprained ankle, but returned to start in the playoff loss to the New York Giants. Recently, Gruden said this year's ankle injury was not related to the ailment from last season.
Last year, Askew was fifth in the NFL in receptions for fullbacks. He hauled in 18 passes for 175 yards, and also contributed four special teams tackles. Askew excelled as a lead blocker for Earnest Graham and the other Bucs running backs. Tampa Bay had its rushing attack rank 11th in the NFL. The Bucs averaged 4.17 yards per rush, the second-highest average in team history.
Askew was recognized for his play by being named a Pro Bowl alternate. The Buccaneers extended the contract of Askew during the offseason. The 2008 season was going to be the final year of his contract prior to the sides coming to terms on the extension.
The Bucs recently revealed that starting right guard Davin Joseph suffered a broken foot on Sunday night and would be sidelined for several weeks. In addition, several key offensive contributors, including quarterback Jeff Garcia (calf), wide receiver Joey Galloway (groin), tight end Ben Troupe (foot) and running back Cadillac Williams (knee) have missed playing time due to their respective ailments. Tampa Bay also released left tackle Luke Petitgout (knee) from the physically unable to perform list on Saturday.
"It's been disappointing because I'd like to have our guys out there," said Gruden. "I'm frustrated for (Askew), but I'm also frustrated for Ben Troupe, Cadillac Williams and some of the other guys that haven't been able to showcase their stuff."
Taking Askew's place in the starting lineup has been backup fullback Byron Storer. Against the Patriots, Storer caught a touchdown in the second quarter from quarterback Luke McCown. Coach Gruden has been very pleased with the development of Storer, who joined Tampa Bay last year as an undrafted free agent out of California.
"He's done a great job," Gruden said of Storer. "I'm really impressed with the job [running backs coach] Rich Bisaccia has done with our backs, like Byron, Clifton Smith and Michael Bennett. When you're going up against the 3-4 defense, and we're talking about Miami and New England here, and you're going up in the hole and blocking and taking some of the best players in the league on, you're a good player. He's taken every rep. He's caught the ball and he's covered kicks. He's played extremely well. He's an NFL fullback.
"He's so much better now than he was one year ago. He's light years ahead. He came to us a little raw and some of the things we do here were foreign to him last year. From a physical and understanding standpoint, he's had an unbelievable camp."
The Bucs also have backup fullback Carl Stewart on the roster. Going into the regular season, Askew is secure in his starting spot and the Buccaneers are hopeful he will return to the lineup soon.
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