Running back Cadillac Williams remains puzzled about a wild rumor that started on a Tampa Bay area sports talk radio station last week that said that he was seen in a wheelchair at Atlanta’s airport coming back from the Final Four. On Thursday, Williams laughed off the rumor and was not showing any noticeable limp or injury.
“I’m fine, I’m 100 percent,” Williams said, dispelling the rumor. “I’ve been participating in the OTAs and the offseason workouts.”
Williams went on to address another rumor, one that has the Buccaneers possibly wanting to select Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden has recently lavished praise on Peterson, saying, “The guy at Oklahoma is a great player. He might be as good a running back coming out of college as I’ve ever seen.”
That praise may be seen as legitimate or it could be a smokescreen. Williams and everyone else will find out on April 28, which is the first day of the day.
At first, Williams played the role of company man when asked about the rumor that the Bucs could draft Peterson. He stated how both he and Peterson could coexist in the same backfield the way Williams and former teammate Ronnie Brown, who is a running back with the Miami Dolphins, did at Auburn University.
“It’s definitely something I can benefit from,” Williams said. “It’s something I’m familiar with. I spent four years sharing the ball. Whatever goes on during draft day, and whatever way they decide to go, I’m prepared to contribute to the team any way I can.”
That’s a nice, team-oriented answer from Williams, but it doesn’t reflect his true feelings, which he revealed when pressed about whether drafting another running back like Peterson in the top five filled a big need for the Buccaneers.
“Me personally, I don’t think running back is a very big need at all,” Williams said. “We’ll see. I just don’t want to get involved in all the gossip.”
Tampa Bay has expressed an interest in adding another running back to take some of the workload off Williams’ shoulders this year after a foot injury hampered his production a bit in 2005, a year in which he gained 1,178 yards rushing and was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and ineffectiveness prevented Williams from gaining more than 798 yards rushing last season. But spending two top-five draft choices within the span of three years on running backs would be unwise given the multitude of greater needs Tampa Bay has elsewhere on its roster, including defensive tackle, defensive end, safety and offensive line.
While his rushing stats declined last year, and his touchdown output decreased from six in 2005 to just one last year, Williams did make some progress catching the ball. After posting 20 catches for 81 yards (4.5 avg.) as a rookie, he caught 30 passes for 196 yards (6.5 avg.) in 2006. But Williams did drop eight passes last year, most of which were instances where he wasn’t looking the ball in all the way.
He maintains that he will be a better receiver as he continues to focus on catching the ball this offseason.
“That’s something, as far as my game is concerned, that I will always put an emphasis on – me catching the ball and getting more involved I get in the passing game,” Williams said. “The more they use me, and the more opportunities I get, the more I’ll succeed. I’m just looking for more chances in that area.”
Reading between the lines, that’s Williams’ subtle way of implying, “We don’t need to draft Peterson.”
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