Graham entering 8th season


Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham runs a play during practice at the Bucs training camp in Tampa on Friday. Ernst Peters/The Lakeland Ledger

Published: Monday, August 1, 2011 at 11:25 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 6:40 p.m.

TAMPA — Earnest Graham knows the routine. Every summer, the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to bring in new players to try to take Graham’s job at running back.

And when the players arrive, he is one of the first players to help the new guys get acclimated to doing things the Buccaneer way.

Graham, about to enter his eighth season in the league, is currently the team’s starting fullback. But he is looking to expand his role as the team’s third-down back and get some action as the team’s second running back as well.




Currently, he is battling Kregg Lumpkin and possibly rookie Allen Bradford for that role.

It is not that he is overly confident that he has any job locked up. It’s just that in order for Tampa Bay to have the best shot of winning, he is willing to do whatever it takes. That would include prepping his potential replacements.

“It’s not easy coming into this league the way I did,” Graham said. “I can do everything — halfback, fullback, about to go to third-down (back), goal line. Every facet of the game I can contribute to and that has kept me around.

“My ideal scenario is where they see me fit in,” he said. “We know what LeGarrette Blount can do once he touches the football.”

Graham’s versatility is the reason coach Raheem Morris calls him "Insurance" Graham. He may need to add professor to the moniker for the teaching Graham has done.

“He fills every role you need,” Morris said. “He does it all, and you never hear him complain. He’s never a problem.”

Graham came in from the University of Florida with high credentials but was cut more than once before he made the team, then he played mainly on special teams.

When he finally got a chance, he delivered, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards in 2007.

Last year, Blount said Graham really helped him get up to speed in learning the playbook. Lumpkin said the same thing.

“He’s played a major role,” said Lumpkin. “Coming in and having to dive right in the playbook, he gave you little keys to help you with the defense. I continue to learn from him.”

The Bucs like Lumpkin, who they snatched up after Green Bay waived him.

At 5-foot-11, 228 yards, Lumpkin is a back that can thump but has the versatility to catch the ball out of the backfield. He entered the league out of the University of Georgia.

Now, he’s fighting for a role on this squad.

“I have to stay focused and go out here and perform,” Lumpkin said. “I have to show I can improve each year."

“Whatever I can get,” he said when asked what would he like his role to be. “I want to be somewhere where I can help the team out.”

Morris is excited to see Lumpkin with a year under his belt.

“Seeing how he fits with us should be fun this preseason,” Morris said. “We’re really fired up to see what Kregg Lumpkin can do in a Tampa Bay uniform. I got a chance to see what he did in a Green Bay uniform (and) it was pretty good. That’s why we went and got him. But I’m pretty excited about him in a Tampa Bay uniform.

That’s the same mentality as Graham.

“Another ideal thing for me to do is to coach these guys up and make them better football players,” he said. “That is why I’m here. That is part of my job — to get LeGarrette Blount up to speed; the Kregg Lumpkins; the Allen Bradfords; these young guys. That’s part of my job.

“That’s my nature,” he said. “I have a selfless attitude. It was done for me by Mike Alstott. I listen to those guys. Michael Pittman. I listen to him. It’s the nature of the game. You can’t really fight it. We’re getting older and for me, I love the fact. I consider it part of my job, part of my duty to the organization to bring these guys up to speed.”

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