Shutdown Corner - NFL

Not exactly breaking news, I'm aware. It seems worth revisiting, though, since Derrick Ward(notes), who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago for $17 million over four years, has slipped to third on the depth chart. Oh, and now, via Ira Kaufman at, his coach is saying he's out of shape.

"When you get a bit older in this league, especially as a running back, you have to realize that you need to come into camp at a lighter weight, not heavier," Coach Raheem Morris said. "I still have a lot of confidence in Derrick Ward that he'll be ready and in shape to help us this season."

It's sweet that his coach remains confident, but we're in the third week of the preseason. If a player's not in shape at this point, he's tiptoeing a little too close to Albert Haynesworth(notes) territory.

Ward, for his part, says that his physical conditioning isn't an issue.

"Ask my teammates - I'm not huffing or puffing, I'm not asking to be taken out of games," said Ward, whose average yards per carry plunged from 5.6 to 3.6 in his first year with the Bucs. "My weight is good and I'm ready to go. If the first game of the season was this Sunday, I'd be ready."

Fair enough. But if his conditioning isn't the problem, what is? Because a problem clearly exists.

The Bucs gave him the big dollars after he had a 1,000-yard season with the Giants in 2008, carrying the ball at 5.6 yards a pop. He gave the Bucs 3.6 yards per carry last year, with one touchdown.

And despite saying he's coming into this year with a "new mentality," he's run this preseason with all the speed, power and agility of Cloris Leachman. In the first game against Miami, he led all Tampa Bay running backs in carries with 12, but finished last in yards with 20. Game two against Kansas City wasn't much better: five carries and 11 yards.

Now, he's looking up on the depth chart at both Cadillac Williams and Kareem Huggins(notes), a rookie out of Hofstra.

Whatever it is that's troubling him -- conditioning, or the need for an even newer mentality -- let's hope he gets it figured out soon.

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