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Cards Hope Pittman Sparks Offense

October 6, 2000

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Michael Pittman would rather run over a would-be tackler than around one.

Now that Pittman is starting again at running back for the Arizona Cardinals, the team hopes his aggressive style rubs off on what has been a punchless offense.

``He’s going to hit those holes and make something happen,″ quarterback Jake Plummer said Thursday. ``It’s a way to get a little energy out there.″

Last year, Arizona ranked 29th out of 31 teams in rushing and drafted Virginia back Thomas Jones with the No. 7 pick overall.

So far, nothing has worked this season.

Jones has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, and has shown a tendency to try to make too many moves instead of just bolting toward daylight. The Cardinals go into Sunday’s game against Cleveland ranked 30th in rushing.

Pittman, meanwhile, had a strong game in last week’s 27-20 loss to San Francisco, gaining 72 yards on 11 carries and catching six passes for 72 yards. His tough style reminds some of Larry Centers, the popular player who left the Cardinals as a free agent in 1998.

``He reminds me of a guy we let go a couple of years ago,″ Plummer said, ``the kind of guy who’s going to jump over a pile. He’s going to sacrifice his body to make a play, make a first down. ... We could use some more of that.″

In his first NFL start, 11 months ago, Pittman gained 133 yards in 23 carries in the Cardinals’ 23-19 victory over Detroit. But a toe injury sidelined him most of the rest of last season.

Pittman was the team’s No. 1 runner throughout this preseason, but Jones started in the season opener. Pittman wasn’t happy, but he didn’t let that affect his play when he got a chance.

``I prayed, hoping this day would come,″ Pittman said. ``When the announcement was made that Thomas was the starter, I really didn’t get down on myself or my ability. Of course I was upset, but whenever I got the opportunity, I just played hard. I guess coach (Vince) Tobin saw it and the rest of the coaches saw it. I made the most of it and I made the change.″

The multitalented Jones isn’t going to be forgotten, either. Plummer promises to mix both players into the offense.

Arizona also hopes consistency along the offensive line will help. Because of injuries to tackle L.J. Shelton, center Mark Gruttadauria and guard Lester Holmes, last week was the first time all the players projected to start on the line actually did.

``Hopefully, they’ll get healthier as the year goes on, and the healthier they get, the better they’ll play,″ Tobin said.

Plummer said the team’s offense is close to performing to its capabilities, but mistakes have prevented it.

``Eleven guys have to get on the same page,″ Plummer said. ``It seems one guys will miss a block or one guy will run a bad route or I won’t throw the ball accurately, just those little things. A tight unit, a tight group, a good offense is so tight that those don’t happen.″

Plummer said offensive coordinator Marc Trestman is not to blame.

``We’ve had the right plays called. Everyone thinks it’s not calling the right plays,″ Plummer said. ``If you’d sit down and watched film with us, you’d be amazed at how many plays where we’re one block away or even a tripped heel away from going 50-60 yards or maybe 80 yards for a touchdown. We’ve just got to keep pressing it, keep pushing it to get better, and I think we will.″

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