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Fender bender keeps Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback B.J. Askew out of practice

The status B.J. Askew, above, for Sunday has not been determined. If he does not play, Earnest Graham will start at fullback.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

The status B.J. Askew, above, for Sunday has not been determined. If he does not play, Earnest Graham will start at fullback.

TAMPA — The Bucs' B.J. Askew, who has not practiced this week for what is listed as a back/neck injury, was hurt in a fender bender on Tuesday, coach Raheem Morris said.

"We're going to monitor his status day by day," Morris said Thursday.

Morris said Earnest Graham would be the fullback if Askew can't play Sunday against the Panthers.

"He's Mr. Versatile," Morris said of Graham. "He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He can be a third-down back. He can be a fullback. The versatility of Earnest Graham and what he does on special teams is huge."

More injuries: TE Jerramy Stevens (quad) did not practice while WR Antonio Bryant (knee) was limited.

Rush woes: Since rushing for 174 yards in the opener against the Cowboys, the Bucs have 299 in four games. Their 94.6 yards per game are 26th in the league.

Meanwhile, the last time they faced the Panthers, on Dec. 8, the Bucs allowed 299 yards, second most in franchise history, on 37 carries. This year, however, neither of the Panthers' top runners, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, has a 100-yard game. And Carolina's 97.2 yards per game are 23rd in the league.

"It's not quite there yet," QB Jake Delhomme said. "We were close (Sunday against the Redskins) on a couple of runs."

Coach John Fox said health is a key. Stewart (Achilles') is expected to be at full strength by Sunday, and FB Brad Hoover (back spasms) returned against the Redskins.

Last season, the Panthers were 19th in the league after four games. But the fifth game began a seven-game stretch in which Williams rushed for 100 yards five times and Stewart once.

"We've seen … they've had a lot of fumbles (five, tied for most in the league). That's a mental thing," Bucs DE Jimmy Wilkerson said.

"But when those guys get going, they're going to be tough to beat."

IN THE GUN: QB Josh Johnson appeared to look comfortable operating out of the shotgun Sunday at Philadelphia, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson acknowledged he's considering putting him in those situations more.

"He seems to see the field a little bit better, a little more comfortable getting the ball out of his hands. That kind of suits a little more of Josh Johnson," Olson said.

"We'll look at doing some of that. A lot of teams throughout the league, especially in the zone blitz and these blitzing schemes that you're seeing nowadays, lot of quarterbacks feel more comfortable back in the gun."

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com

Fender bender keeps Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback B.J. Askew out of practice 10/15/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2009 6:12am]
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