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Earnest Graham's fullback role cuts his number of touches for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs running back Earnest Graham, who had a total of 354 carries in 2007 and ’08, has just 11 this season.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Bucs running back Earnest Graham, who had a total of 354 carries in 2007 and ’08, has just 11 this season.

TAMPA — Offensive coordinator Greg Olson has said the past few weeks he'd like to get FB Earnest Graham more involved in the offense.

Sunday, Graham gained 31 yards on three rushes against the Saints after not getting a carry in the previous five games. The Bucs entered the season wanting to rotate Graham and RBs Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward to keep them fresh and go with the "hot back," but coach Raheem Morris said the reason Graham didn't get more touches Sunday is because he has been the full-time fullback since B.J. Askew went down.

Graham could see more opportunities as recently-signed Chris Pressley, whom Olson calls a "true fullback," gets acclimated to the offense. Pressley, signed in late October off the Bengals' practice squad, can play only in a limited number of formations, resulting in a small package Graham can get carries out of.

"(Graham) got the ball a couple of times, made some dynamic runs and dynamic cuts," Morris said. "The problem is he's our starting fullback. He's been out there playing fullback for Cadillac and Derrick Ward. (Graham) is the most unselfish player on our football team. He's got to be one of them, at least in the top five. We'd like to get him the ball. We threw a couple of balls to him in the flat. He's a weapon, too."

LEFT OUT: QB Byron Leftwich's season is over, but it appears he'll still have an impact behind the scenes.

Leftwich, 29, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday as the lingering elbow soreness in his throwing arm was expected to keep him out a while. Olson said the decision wasn't made until Monday, when Leftwich met with doctors. Leftwich was told his condition is similar to the one which sidelined former Buc Brian Griese for nearly two months last season.

Leftwich, a seven-year veteran, has been a mentor of sorts to first-round pick Josh Freeman. And Olson said Leftwich still plans to be involved in most team activities and meetings, and can help in that fashion.

"Byron will still be here," Olson said. "He plans on being here, he was in the quarterback meetings this afternoon. He's getting rehab but will still be actively involved with the quarterbacks so he will still be there as someone to lean on."

TOUGH IT OUT: RT Jeremy Trueblood said while he still has pain in his right knee — which he said was hurt Sunday when another player fell on him — he expects to practice this week and can play through it this Sunday against the Falcons. Trueblood practiced Tuesday, as did CB Elbert Mack, who missed the Saints game with an ankle injury.

"It still hurts but it's part of football," Trueblood said. "It's not a big deal, nothing I can't play through. So it's not going to be an issue."

ROSTER MOVES: Rookie QB Rudy Carpenter was signed off the Cowboys practice squad to take Leftwich's No. 3 spot. Olson said they researched Carpenter, a former Arizona State standout, during the draft, and they'll continue to evaluate him. The Bucs also released CB Mike Mickens and signed WR Terrence Nunn from the Patriots' practice squad.

Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Earnest Graham's fullback role cuts his number of touches for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 24, 2009 9:23pm]
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