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Kareem Huggins' injury affects Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running back rotation

Coaches had planned to give Kareem Huggins more action on Sunday, but he missed Thursday’s practice with a groin injury.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Coaches had planned to give Kareem Huggins more action on Sunday, but he missed Thursday’s practice with a groin injury.

TAMPA — RB Kareem Huggins, whom coaches vowed to get more involved for Sunday's game at Carolina, missed practice Thursday after a "setback" with a groin injury and could miss the game.

Coach Raheem Morris did not sound optimistic when addressing Huggins, the backup to Cadillac Williams, and turned his attention to the club's two young, recently acquired backs, LeGarrette Blount and Kregg Lumpkin.

"We're fortunate we have those two young backs to come in and compete, potentially, and be able to fill that role for us this week," Morris said. "They're competing well and doing a great job."

Asked which player would be more likely to spell Williams, if needed, Morris first was evasive before admitting Lumpkin has some advantages over Blount.

"Lumpkin came from a similar background. Some of that stuff in Green Bay, we use, too; some of the terminology," Morris said. "That would give him a little bit of an edge as far as terminology and knowing a little bit more of the offense than maybe Blount knows right now."

Morris didn't rule Huggins out of the game, but he didn't sound hopeful, either.

"I'd have to really go talk to the trainer to get an evaluation," he said. "He went out to practice (Wednesday). And (Thursday), he did not.

"I don't know where he's going to be (today)."

Lumpkin, claimed off waivers two weeks ago from the Packers, is a 5-foot-11, 228-pounder whom coaches have likened to FB Earnest Graham. Morris wouldn't classify Lumpkin as a tailback or fullback, saying he's more of a "hybrid" and suggesting he could help the Bucs as a ball carrier.

A status for Huggins won't be provided until today's injury report is released. Coaches had discussed this week making him a part of the game plan after he went without a carry or reception against Cleveland.

With Williams getting 22 carries, the coaching staff wants to lighten the burden by using complementary backs.

STOVALL'S STATUS: WR Maurice Stovall was inactive Sunday, in part, Morris said, because the coach wanted to give Stovall's sprained ankle another week to heal.

The rest has paid dividends, Morris said, but he stopped short of committing to playing Stovall.

"He's gotten a lot better this week," Morris said. "He looked good last week, but the extra week might have helped him a little bit more to keep him stronger down the stretch. You could have any given Sunday where I do different things.

"We've been talking all season about how the wide receiver position has really been a strength for us. Those guys really compete every week for a helmet (on game day). I look at Preston Parker, and I go, 'Wow, man, I wonder what he would do if he was (active).' Those are the kinds of things that go through your mind. That's what keeps these guys playing hard every day."

Stovall is a big contributor on special teams, but so is rookie Arrelious Benn, who was active Sunday. Morris did, however, seem open to activating five receivers (one more than against Cleveland).

"(Stovall) keeps fighting, and he keeps working his tail off as well," Morris said. "He's been a starter for us before. He knows multiple positions, and he brings a lot to game day."

OPEN FIELD: QB Josh Freeman had the team's longest rushing play against the Browns, a 33-yard scramble in the first quarter that helped set up a field goal.

Freeman doesn't often look to run, but he's not opposed to it.

"If it opens up, I'm going to run," he said. "It was actually a screen play, so I didn't have that many options. It was either throw it at (Graham's) feet or try to get around the edge. Fortunately, the linebacker bit on the pump fake, and I was able to get around the edge.

"My athletic ability is not something I'm shy about. If I have the ability to pick up the first down with my feet, I'm going to do it."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Kareem Huggins' injury affects Tampa Bay Buccaneers' running back rotation 09/16/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:36pm]
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