The news that fullback Mike Alstott’s season was over when the Bucs announced on Thursday that he was being placed on injured reserve with his second neck injury since 2003 rocked the Tampa Bay area. The cheers that rocked Raymond James Stadium on Friday night were just a small showering of appreciation as Alstott was announced as the last offensive player during the pre-game player introductions. Alstott, who could be seen choking back tears for the second consecutive day, blew a kiss to his wife and children before he ran onto the field, his normal pre-game ritual during a game.
The first player that met Alstott as he ran toward Bucs players was longtime teammate, linebacker Derrick Brooks. Brooks didn’t expect to see Alstott come running through the tunnel on Friday night, but was glad to see his teammate and friend with a smile on his face.
“It was kind of a surprise to me when I saw him in the tunnel after [quarterback] Jeff [Garcia] and it was a good twist that everybody had a chance to hug the neck,” Brooks said. “Because we had to find out in Orlando that he wasn’t going to be able to play this season so it was good that everyone had a chance to shake his hand and hug his neck.”
After Brooks and Alstott’s embrace, the entire Bucs squad came over to Alstott to show their support and love for arguably the most popular Bucs player in franchise history. His teammates’ actions are just another gesture to honor what Alstott has done and meant to the Tampa Bay franchise.
Running back Michael Pittman received the un-envious task of filling in for Alstott in Friday night’s preseason game against the New England Patriots. Pittman, who is extremely close with Alstott, worked at the fullback position during the OTA’s and was ready to step in when called on by head coach Jon Gruden.
“When Mike [Alstott] went down the coaches asked me to step in and that’s something I didn’t mind doing it,” Pittman said. “It just allows me to get on the field. I’ve blocked these linebackers all the time so it’s not a big deal for me. It can give us mismatches in many different ways, gets me line up against a linebacker with me and Caddy in the backfield at the same time.”
Alstott made it a point to state that one of the reasons that he’s remaining with the team is to help the young running backs along with the veterans. Pittman has shared the same backfield with Alstott for the past five seasons with the Bucs. Pittman believes that having Mike on the sideline will help his game as well as the rest of the Bucs running backs.
“It’s going to mean a lot for me because I’m a veteran and I give Mike advice and he gives me advice,” Pittman said. “He can help me out on the sideline if he sees something that I’m not doing at fullback like the way I’m blocking or something else. Just his presence, just being around us is going to be good.”
Alstott’s injury not only affected Pittman on the field, but off the field as well because the two teammates are good friends when the pads come off. Pittman was one of the teammates that took Alstott’s injury the hardest because of his relationship with Alstott’s family.
“It definitely difficult, especially for me because me and Mike are real close,” Pittman said. “We are more than teammates, we are good friends. Our wives are good friends, our children play together so he’s more than a teammate he’s like a brother to me. I love him more than anything. For this to happen to Mike, one of the great guys in football, it’s just a bad situation. But at the same time, it’s football and Mike is making the best decision for him and his family.”
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