Will team commit to RB in Earnest?

By 4 p.m. today, Earnest Graham will know if he'll be Tampa Bay's featured running back for the rest of the season.

"It's not something I'm thinking about," Graham said Monday.


But make no mistake, it was something the Buccaneers hierarchy was thinking about well into Monday night and will be up until the NFL-wide trade deadline this afternoon at 4.

"We are certainly investigating the possibility of a trade," said Coach Jon Gruden, whose team defeated the Tennessee Titans 13-10 at home Sunday. "Again, it takes two to tango."


In most cases, it also takes a running game to win in the NFL.

A search for someone to team with Graham wouldn't necessarily be a slap at the former University of Florida standout as much as a nod to how the season is starting to unfold for Gruden's troops.

Tampa Bay (4-2) already has equaled its victory total of last season and resides in a first-place tie in the NFC South with Carolina, a team it defeated soundly on the road 16 days ago. This week, the Bucs are on the road to face the Detroit Lions (3-2).

With QB Jeff Garcia playing at a Pro Bowl level and a decent young defense that forces turnovers, this team has a chance to make some noise in the NFC, where only Dallas and Green Bay have better records.

The noise probably won't be very loud, though, if the running game averages just 1.74 yards an attempt.

With injuries to RBs Carnell Williams and Michael Pittman, those are the numbers the Bucs have produced the past two weeks, with Graham gaining 40 yards on 19 carries.

Gruden and running backs coach Art Valero have expressed nothing but confidence in Graham.

But with Williams done for the season with a devastating knee injury and Pittman likely out until mid-November, do the Bucs want to tread water with Graham or make a splash with a trade?


If the answer is the latter, they'll have until this afternoon to find a dance partner.

Injury report

It didn't look good Sunday for TE Alex Smith, but news of his ankle turned out much better than expected; especially given the track record of a club used to losing key players to injury of late.

"He has a chance to play this week," Gruden said.

Though X-rays didn't show a break for either Smith or DE Patrick Chukwurah (shoulder), Gruden cautioned that both players were questionable for Sunday's game at Detroit.

The Bucs also hope to have CB Brian Kelly (groin) back to play the Lions and their high-octane passing attack.



Gruden said he watched on TV as South Florida crushed UCF 64-12 on Saturday. His sons often go to USF games and Gruden has had some nice things to say about Coach Jim Leavitt and the growth of the Bulls program.

"That is unbelievable," Gruden said. "Coach Leavitt and the organization, the athletic department, the coaching staff, support staff I mean, I had the band right in front of me Sunday playing the national anthem before our game. The trombone players, even they're great. So they got it going on, man. I'm really fired up."