Tampa Bay running game absent
Reggie Cobb followed his blockers in their inability to explain the disappearance of the running game. Cobb was held to 32 yards on 16 carries in Sunday's 23-7 loss to the New York Giants. The Bucs are averaging only 35 rushing yards per game, last in the NFL.

"I take credit for that one more than I blame any one part of it," Bucs coach Sam Wyche said. "The design of the plays has been good, but I think maybe some teams are catching up to it. There's a period of time when you have a system that's working for years and somebody has got the answer."

Cobb, who has rushed 33 times for 60 yards this season, has been careful not to point a finger at his offensive line - although that is probably the obvious place to start. Not only is Tampa Bay without franchise player Paul Gruber at left tackle, but his absence has forced them to run right more than Rush Limbaugh. Things have deteriorated so badly that former No. 1 draft pick Charles McRae, who started 16 games last season as well as last week's opener, was deactivated for the game.

In his place on the active roster was Theo Adams, who was signed as a free agent and had just four workouts with Tampa Bay. Cobb, however, is confident. "I think we have the personnel to win the battles up front - whether we have to line up man-to-man or whatever we have to do," Cobb said. "We never got in a groove. There were times we were close. You've got to stick with it. Right now we don't have that luxury to have the patience."

While the Bucs have lost their patience with Gruber's holdout, Cobb downplays his absence. "This group's been together since camp. The season's going, we don't have any excuses about missing people," Cobb said.

The Bucs blew a chance to get in the end zone in the third quarter. Trailing 20-7, he took a handoff from Craig Erickson on fourth-and-inches and appeared to cross the goal line. But the officials ruled he was stopped inches short by linebacker Michael Brooks. "The referee said I wasn't in and that's the only one that counts," Cobb said.

Cobb, who wants to renegotiate his contract for next season, is counting on a big year statistically. But he is trying to remain patient. "It's a long year. It's the NFL. We've played two games and we've got 14 to go," Cobb said. "It's frustrating because we're not winning."

Rick Stroud, The St.Petersburg Times 1993