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Tampa Bay Bucs could use a player like Mike Alstott to stop losing streak

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Right about now, they could use his effort.

Right about now, they could use his will.

The Bucs could use a running back to burst into the offensive line and attack. They could use someone to break a tackle or five. They could use someone determined to get every drop of ability out of his body.

They could use Mike Alstott, and not just the name that will forever be on the stadium.

The Bucs enshrined Alstott into their Ring of Honor Sunday, but the truth is that they need a player like him on the field. They need the sweat. They need the muscle.

Alstott was not the finest running back ever to play in the NFL. He never had a 1,000-yard season, and he only once caught more than 35 passes. But he was the embodiment of grit during his years with the Bucs, and the fans loved no player more.

There was the running play against the Saints, when Alstott crashed into the line and began to wade through tacklers, one after another. By the time they got to replay, the crowd was ready. When they showed it again, the crowd on cue began to chant the number “four…five…six…” It was chilling.

Alstott is difficult to describe to someone who did not watch him play. There were backs with more speed, backs with more sizzle. He was a half-step slow. Instead, he became everyman, the player with which the fans feel the greatest connection. No other player, even the more gifted ones like Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp and Ronde Barber and John Lynch, felt quite that same affection.

If there has ever been a time the Bucs could use that, it is now. They have won three of their last 20, and it does not appear to be getting better. They miss kicks. They throw to the wrong team. They seem to be forever backing up.

Yes, Alstott will be with them forever.

One more Sunday, however, would do.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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