TAMPA — LeGarrette Blount crumpled to the turf and grabbed his left leg late in the second quarter Friday night following a 4-yard run against the Titans. The groin injury he sustained was not cataclysmic, but it was deflating nonetheless.
A big part of the Bucs' plan this season is to grind up teams under the feet of their bulldozing running back. But after a 30-7 preseason loss at Raymond James Stadium, the feeling about Blount's injury, which wasn't believed to be serious, mirrored that about Tampa Bay's prospects in the first season under Greg Schiano: fearing the worst but hoping for the best.
Considering the way the Bucs were physically dominated in nearly every phase Friday, they should feel fortunate more players didn't join Blount in the trainer's room.
Quarterbacks Josh Freeman and Dan Orlovsky were under siege all night by a defense that took advantage of a porous offensive line and forced two turnovers.
"I do know the quarterback took way too many hits, including Josh," Schiano said. "You can't do that. You're not going to win in this league, and you're not going to have your quarterback very long, if that happens."
Freeman finished 4-of-10 for 21 yards and was either chased from the pocket or whacked after nearly every pass. He managed to throw a 2-yard touchdown pass to receiver Mike Williams to give the Bucs a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
That touchdown came after safety Ahmad Black intercepted a pass from quarterback Jake Locker and returned it 29 yards. After that, the Titans took control of the game, forcing turnovers and scoring 30 unanswered points.
The Bucs allowed 341 total yards while producing 81 and had a 20-6 disadvantage in first downs.
Bad appeared to become worse in the second quarter when Blount was hit from the side on his left leg and remained on the ground for several minutes in pain before limping to the locker room for examination.
"I just took a hit on the side, and it tweaked my groin a little bit. It's not a serious injury. I'll be back," Blount said. "It hurt. It's something we're going to have to look into (today). We'll find out what's going on."
Asked if he could play if the Bucs opened the regular season this week against Carolina, Blount, who finished with 11 yards on eight carries, said he wasn't sure.
The Bucs have depth at running back with rookie Doug Martin, who rushed seven times for 23 yards but had a 16-yard run negated by a holding penalty on Jeremy Zuttah.
"I thought Doug ran the ball nicely, which is an upside," Schiano said. "He had a 9-yard pop … a 16-yard run that didn't count. I thought those were nice runs."
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It was a disappointing home debut for Schiano in front of 45,633. A week earlier, the team looked sharp in beating host Miami 20-7.
Orlovsky (1-of-5 for 6 yards and an interception) was responsible for back-to-back turnovers after taking over from Freeman in the second quarter. He was sacked and lost a fumble at the Tampa Bay 10-yard line, which set up a 34-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Two plays later, Orlovsky threw late to rookie tight end Drake Dunsmore, and the pass was deflected by linebacker Akeem Ayers and intercepted by cornerback Chris Hawkins.
Titans running back Chris Johnson scored his second touchdown on a 14-yard run, high-stepping the last 7 yards into the end zone.
When the Bucs study the tape of Friday's game, they're not going to like the play of their offensive line. Guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph participated in only about 15 plays before leaving, but the starting offense didn't play well, either. Orlovsky was sacked four times.
"We have to do a better job of handling the line of scrimmage — clean pockets and giving them holes to run through," Joseph said.
Defensively, Tampa Bay's first unit produced an interception and two three-and-outs. Following a turnover, they held the Titans to a field goal. Linebacker Dekoda Watson produced the Bucs' first sack of the preseason. Rookie Michael Smith looked effective on kickoff returns.
Even Blount felt well enough to return to the sideline and watch the second half from the bench.
"As I knew last week, everything wasn't great and everything isn't horrible this week, either," Schiano said. "It's just preseason and we need to go back to work and get more precise."
Rick Stroud can be reached at email@example.com and can be heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.