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Bucs' Pittman seeks permission to see his wife

Bucs running back Michael Pittman will be in court this morning in Phoenix, asking a judge to end an injunction that has limited his contact with his wife since he was arrested on assault charges six weeks ago.

Pittman, who also will seek permission to leave the country to travel with the team to Tokyo in three weeks, has been prohibited from initiating contact with his wife, Melissa, since May 30. That is when police say he used his Hummer to ram her Mercedes-Benz, with her, their 2-year-old son and an 18-year-old babysitter inside. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault.

"Michael and Melissa want to be together," said Tampa attorney Edward Brennan, who represents Melissa. "They have a family together, and they don't want to have an injunction in place that prohibits that or limits that. The goal is to reunite the family."

Pittman's attorney, Joel Thompson, said Pittman was initially allowed to leave Arizona to go to Florida so he could participate in Bucs workouts. He said the hearing is a "formality" to okay Pittman's travel with the team for a preseason game in Tokyo. The team leaves July 29, the day before he is scheduled for a pretrial conference on the assault charges.

He also has a hearing July 21 to determine if those charges violated a three-year probation imposed in 2001 after another altercation with his wife.

ARENA FOOTBALL: Jay Gruden could be named Orlando's next coach Monday, a team spokesman said Wednesday.

Gruden, who left the Predators sideline to play quarterback the past two seasons, had a 4{-hour surgery Tuesday to realign his injured right ankle. His decision depends in part on his recovery.

"If the decision's made for Jay not to play again, then Jay's going to be our head coach, at least from our standpoint," Orlando spokesman Dan Pearson said.

Former Orlando coach Fran Papasedero died in a one-car accident last month. The Predators will announce his replacement next week, Pearson said.

The team petitioned the league about the possibility of Gruden serving as a player-coach, because a league rule prohibits it. Gruden is under contract as a player, but a new deal likely would have to be reached for him to coach.

Gruden coached the Predators from 1998-2001, winning ArenaBowls in 1998 and 2000. He won four titles as quarterback of the Storm from 1991-96 and is a Bucs offensive assistant.

In other news, the Predators signed defensive specialist Kenny McEntyre, wide receiver/linebacker Cory Fleming and linemen E.J. Burt, Reggie Lee and Justin Cleveland.

EAGLES: A charge of resisting arrest without violence has been dropped against first-round pick Jerome McDougle.

Prosecutors dropped the charge in exchange for McDougle donating a total of $500 to the Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Florida Mental Health Trust Fund, State Attorney spokesman Ed Griffiths said.

"The situation was resolved amicably," said McDougle's attorney, Adam Swickle.

The former Miami defensive end was arrested in April, accused of trying to stop the towing of a car registered to one of his former college teammates.

The 6-foot-4, 271-pound McDougle was the 15th pick in April's draft. He was a Big East first-team selection in 2001 and 2002, his only seasons at Miami.

VIKINGS: Starting running back Michael Bennett's fractured left foot could force him to miss part of the 2003 season, ESPN.com reported.

Bennett sought a second opinion on his surgically repaired foot, and the Web site reported that the results were not promising for the third-year player. The examination by Dr. Robert Anderson revealed that the fracture, suffered during spring workouts, is not healing as quickly as anticipated.

Anderson, one of the nation's leading foot specialists, has not recommended a second surgery and will attempt to promote healing with non-surgical treatment. But ESPN.com reported that it is almost certain that Bennett will not be on the field when camp opens July 26.

_ Times staff writer Frank Pastor contributed to this report, which includes information from other news organizations.

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