Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman was held out of Wednesday's practice at One Buccaneer Place after re-aggravating his high ankle sprain against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday.
Pittman, who originally sustained the ankle sprain in Tampa Bay's 33-14 loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 7, was originally scheduled to miss 6-8 weeks with the injury.
However, Pittman healed quickly and actually returned to action in five weeks after only missing four regular season games before making his return in Atlanta, where he carried the ball 10 times for 44 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards vs. the Falcons.
Unfortunately for Pittman, his return was short-lived as he re-aggravated his ankle injury in Atlanta.
"I'm concerned. It doesn't look good," Gruden said of Pittman's injury. "He hasn't worked much in the last six weeks. Losing Cadillac [Williams] and Pittman definitely hurts us. Make no mistake about it."
Pittman, who has carried the ball 45 times for 213 yards (4.7 avg.) and caught 13 passes for 111 yards in six games (two starts), has not been placed on injured reserve, was not available for comment.
Although Pittman's locker appeared to be cleared out on Wednesday, the Bucs have not placed him on injured reserve. However, they have not ruled out that possibility.
"We'll wait [to decide whehter to put Pittman on [IR]," said Gruden. "I don't know if this is a week-to-week thing or if it's a permanent, season-ending injury. You never know. I really don't know."
Tampa Bay has a league-high 12 players on injured reserve, including fullback Mike Alstott (neck) and Williams (knee). If Pittman is placed on IR he would become the 13th.
With Pittman sidelined again, the Buccaneers signed running back Lionel Gates to the practice squad on Wednesday. They also have 2007 seventh-round pick Kenneth Darby on their eight-man practice squad.
Despite the fact that they've played most of the 2007 season without Alstott and Williams, the Bucs' ground attack ranks 14th in the NFL. It is led by RB Earnest Graham, who has carried the ball 133 times for 556 yards (4.2 avg.) and five touchdowns and caught 27 passes for 182 yards in 10 games (five starts) this season.
If Pittman cannot play vs. Washington on Sunday, the Bucs will rely more on RB Michael Bennett, whom they traded for in October when Williams and Pittman were injured in back-to-back games.
Bennett was inactive last week vs. the Atlanta Falcons, and Gruden said the former first-round pick needed to get a better grasp of his version of the West Coast offense in order to see action again on game days.
"He's got to play better," Gruden said of Bennett. "When he's better on the practice field we'll activate him."
Bennett has rushed 10 times for 57 yards and one touchdown in three games (one start) as a Buccaneer.
While the Bucs would like to have Pittman available for Sunday's game and the rest of the season, Bennett apparently heard Gruden's message loud and clear.
"I just need to get more comfortable with the system," said Bennett. "I think today was my first mistake-free day, or almost. I had one mistake today. Today was by the far the best I've been since I got here.
"As long as I keep progressing things will get better. Last week Atlanta did a lot of stuff I wasn't familiar with. I definitely wasn't comfortable. I've never had to go through being deactivated, so that was a humbling experience. I had a chance to go through that. This was a real kick in the butt. ‘Get your butt in gear.' I don't want to assume anything [regarding Pittman's status]. I also don't' want anything given to me. I want to earn it."
BUCS-REDSKINS INJURY REPORT In addition to Pittman, two more Bucs players – fullback B.J. Askew (ankle) and defensive end Greg Spires (calf) – were held out of practice on Wednesday. Spires said he is still a few weeks away from returning to action.
Bucs wide receivers Michael Clayton (ankle) and Joey Galloway (team decision), and running back Earnest Graham (ankle), were limited in Wednesday's practice.
Tampa Bay defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder) had full participation in Wednesday's workout.
Washington held several players out of its practice on Wednesday, including running back Ladell Betts (illness), defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin (foot), offensive lineman Pete Kendall (ankle), wide receivers Santana Moss (heel), James Thrash (ankle) and Antwaan Randle El (chest), safety Sean Taylor (knee) and offensive lineman Todd Wade (knee).
The Redskins have already ruled out offensive tackle Randy Thomas (triceps) for Sunday's game vs. the Buccaneers.
Washington middle linebacker London Fletcher (ribs) and RB Mike Sellers (back) were limited on Wednesday.
Want the inside scoop on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2007 season and 2008 offseason plans? Want to find out who the Bucs are targeting in free agency and the NFL Draft next year? Subscribe to PewterReport.com's Pewter Insider by clickinghere.
Looking for the best selection of Tampa Bay Buccaneers merchandise? Pewter Report endorses Sports Fan-Attic, with 9 Tampa Bay area locations in most major malls. To shop for Bucs merchandise on the Internet, as well as the largest selection of NFL, NCAA, NBA, NHL, MLB and NASCAR, visitSportsFanAtticShop.com.
LISTEN to Pewter Report's Jim Flynn each Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. on the Pewter Pulse with Dan Sileo on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal, and catch Pewter Report's Scott Reynolds each Wednesday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. on the PewterReport.com Buccaneer Blitz with Steve Duemig on WDAE 620 AM The Sports Animal.