The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered 2008 with the running back position in disarray with the retirement of fullback and goal line specialist Mike Alstott, the continued rehab of starting running back Cadillac Williams' knee and the departure of running backs coach Art Valero grabbing the offseason headlines.
The position became more settled this week when PewterReport.com reported that special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia would coach Tampa Bay's running backs, but as of Thursday, Earnest Graham was the only proven halfback under contract as both Michael Pittman and Michael Bennett were scheduled to be unrestricted free agents on February 29.
However, the Buccaneers took a big step in solidfying the running back position with the re-signing of running back Michael Bennett, 29, to a multi-year contract, according to Buccaneers.com. Bennett was acquired in a trade with Kansas City on October 16 just prior to the NFL trading deadline after Williams suffered a torn patellar tendon in Week 4.
Seeing only limited duty as he learned head coach Jon Gruden's playbook, Bennett, a former first-round pick by Minnesota in 2001, rushed for 189 yards and one touchdown on 41 carries (4.6 avg.) and caught five passes for 54 yards and another touchdown in 2007.
The 5-foot-9, 207-pound Bennett has the speed that Gruden craves on offense and was used in screen passes as a running back and also in bubble screens as a wide receiver. He has rushed for 3,615 yards and 13 touchdowns on 810 carries (4.5 avg.), and has also caught 150 passes for 1,218 yards (13.7 avg.) and six scores throughout his career.
His best season in the NFL came in Minnesota in 2002 when he made the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,296 yards and five touchdowns on 255 carries (5.1 avg.), in addition to hauling in 37 receptions for 351 yards and one touchdown.
The signing of Bennett gives Tampa Bay four halfbacks under contract in 2008: Williams, Graham, Kenneth Darby and Bennett.
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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com