TAMPA — Former Bucs RB Derrick Ward stirred up the Tampa Bay locker room with critical remarks about the team.
In an interview with the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, Ward said his new team, the Texans, "actually wants to block for their running backs (and) actually wants to win." He also alleged the Bucs bad-mouthed him after releasing him in August by telling other clubs he was overweight.
"It's the same across the entire offensive line. We have a job to do," Bucs C Jeff Faine said. "Most of the time, I don't even know who's back there. I'm not even looking in the huddle.
"For him to say we blocked differently when he's in the game, I think that's pretty far from the truth. He's still a friend of mine, and it's unfortunate he's decided to go this way and say the things he's saying. But we didn't block any differently with him in there than we did with any other running back."
Ward spent five seasons with the Giants, rushing for 1,025 in his final one, before signing a four-year, $17 million deal with the Bucs in March 2009. Last season, he rushed for 409 yards and one touchdown then was released Aug. 31. In four games as Houston's backup to Arian Foster, he has 14 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Bucs RB Cadillac Williams took particular offense to one comment. Ward said, "I feel like I went straight from New York to Houston," suggesting he has blocked out his season in Tampa.
"I'm not surprised he would say something like that," Williams said. "The guy is a good friend, and I wish him the best. He's happy (in Houston), but I don't know if he really bought into the whole Tampa thing.
"This here is a team sport. So when things aren't going right or aren't going well, the worst thing you can do is start pointing fingers."
ANOTHER OPTION?: With the Bucs looking to involve more backs in the running game, the notion of FB Earnest Graham getting a few more carries can't be dismissed.
The attention has been focused mostly on Kareem Huggins and rookie LeGarrette Blount, but Graham is a potential option with converted defensive end Erik Lorig now working at fullback. The Bucs also have a backup fullback in Chris Pressley.
Still, Graham said he hasn't been told anything about a change in his role.
"I don't have a sense about anything," Graham said. "I know things change. Blount looked good (Sept. 26 against Pittsburgh). You've got to find a way to get him some carries."
But Graham has experienced the unexpected before and knows anything is possible. In 2007, he went from the third-string tailback to the starter after injuries mounted.
"I don't really think about it. I'm having a good time," he said. "I'm helping coach up Blount. All I know is that in the flow of the game, things happen. And we have 13 games left. I'm just here to serve in any capacity they want."
TIME FOR BENNETT: As the Bucs look to increase the heat on opposing quarterbacks, they might turn to DE Michael Bennett, who has been inactive for the first three games.
The former Texas A&M standout appeared in seven games for the Bucs last season after being claimed off waivers from Seattle on Oct. 12. But he had some flashes during the preseason, leading them with two sacks and showing good burst off the ball.
Bennett has played mostly at left end, but he has worked at right end and, occasionally, as an interior pass rusher.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.