It's not just baseball players who know that the third strike is a bitter pill. Michael Pittman, 27, the Buccaneers' running back you last saw celebrating his 124-yard performance in the Super Bowl, may have a long wait before he plays his next down. Pittman was arrested on May 31 outside his Phoenix home and charged with two counts of felony assault on his wife, Melissa, who on Mother's Day had given birth to their second child, a daughter. Pittman is already on probation for two misdemeanor convictions stemming from two June 2001 altercations with Melissa that landed him in jail for five days. ("This is totally out of character," Pittman said then.) Prosecutors want Pittman's probation revoked immediately, which would send him to jail for up to six months and halt his $1.8 million annual salary. (He's in the second year of a five-year, $8.8 million deal.) If convicted of the most recent assault, Pittman—whose pretrial hearing is set for July 30—faces a minimum mandatory five-year sentence.
According to police reports Pittman and Melissa, who have been married for four years, began arguing after Melissa found phone numbers belonging to other women on Pittman's cellphone bill. "Get the f—-out of my house," Pittman allegedly said. Police say the argument unfolded outside the house, where Pittman berated Melissa with profanities and then rammed his Hummer into the passenger side of Melissa's Mercedes as she tried to drive away. Their two-year-old, Mycah, and an 18-year-old babysitter were also in Melissa's car. The report says Melissa told officers that "there were approximately 30 to 40 prior domestic violence situations that were never reported." Lawyers for Pittman, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, refused comment.
Pittman took part in the Bucs' June mini-camp at which coach Jon Gruden told reporters, "I'm concerned about [ Pittman's situation] obviously for a lot of reasons. Not just for winning and losing, but for the general well-being of our football players." As a team the Bucs are preparing for the worst. Pittman was their top back, and the Bucs had ignored running backs in the free-agent market and with their six draft picks. But on June 13, after the seriousness of Pittman's situation became clear, Tampa Bay traded for Cardinals running back Thomas Jones, a potential starter who was the No. 7 pick in 2000. As Gruden said, "Contingency plans are part of this business."
—Lester Munson and jeffri Chadiha