Tampa Bay's defense will see its fair share of Miami's Wildcat offense Sunday, but if Bucs running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams has his way he and Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown will see quite a bit of wildlife during the offseason.
The two close friends played together at Auburn and were considered one of the best one-two combinations the collegiate game has ever seen.
Their success led to Brown being drafted by the Dolphins with the second overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, and Williams going right behind him to the Bucs at number five overall.
Both players have had success since entering the NFL. They've each produced a 1,000-yard season. Brown has had more success due to more playing time. He's rushed for 3,999 yards (4.4 avg.) and 30 touchdowns while catching 149 passes for 1,233 yards and two scores in 54 career starts.
Although he was drafted behind Brown, Williams earned the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2005, but it's been an uphill battle for him since then.
Williams sustained devastating knee injuries in back-to-back seasons (2007 and 2008). In fact, he started just five games during that two-year period while rehabbing from the torn patellar tendon injuries. As a result, Williams has rushed for 2,783 yards (3.8 avg.) and 16 touchdowns.
However, just as they did at Auburn, Brown and Williams were able to push each other during the 2008 offseason when they rehabbed their knee injuries together. Brown suffered a torn ACL in Week 7 of the 2007 regular season.
"We've sweat together, we've cried together, we've done a lot of things together," said Williams. "It's good to see him having so much success and both of us doing what we love to do."
Brown and Williams have since returned from their respective ailments and been productive for their respective teams.
The 6-foot, 230-pound Brown rushed for 566 yards (4.2 avg.) and seven touchdowns through eight games this year. Williams (5-11, 217) has 366 yards (4.0 avg.) and two touchdowns.
The Bucs would like to get Willams more involved, but the struggling team has fallen behind several opponents early this year, which has forced the offense to abandon the run.
However, the fact that Williams still is playing in the NFL after suffering two torn patellar tendon injuries, which some considered career-threatening, is astonishing to many, including Brown.
"He's doing a great job," said Brown. "We talk on a weekly basis. Just for him to be back to be back in the swing of things and be 100 percent; he feels pretty good, I'm happy for him."
One of the reasons why Brown, who produced his first 1,000-yard rushing season last year, is having so much success in Miami is because of the Wildcat formation the offense oftentimes uses.
While rookie quarterback Pat White has started to see action in the Wildcat, the formation typically calls for the signal caller to line up as a receiver or go to the sideline while Brown or former first-round pick, RB Ricky Williams, takes the snap from center. In those situations, which can confuse defenses, Brown either runs the ball or throws it. He's proven he can do both, evidenced by his rushing numbers as well as his 2-of-6 completion total, which includes a touchdown strike. Even Williams admits he's been impressed with the versatility Brown has shown in the Wildcat formation.
"I am a little surprised, but Ronnie is a pretty talented guy," said Williams. "I think he was a first-round pick in baseball. He can do a lot of things.
"There's a lot of misdirection and there's a lot of people pulling. It seems so simple, but it's a lot that the defense has to account for in just that one Wildcat formation."
Miami's ground attack ranks fourth in the NFL. Tampa Bay's, on the other hand, ranks 25th, so some have wondered if the Bucs have considered implementing their own version of the Wildcat.
Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said this week that he did dedicate some practice time to installing a few Wildcat formations earlier in the season, but he eventually put that idea on hold due to the fact that much of his time was consumed by catching players up to speed on the changes he made to Tampa Bay's offense after the team fired Jeff Jagodzinski two weeks before the regular season started.
"We did actually toy with it earlier in the year," said Williams. "We actually had Peanut [Clifton Smith] at the point and had me with a guy coming in motion. We toyed with it, but that was basically the extent of it.
"We definitely have the personnel and potential to do it, but Coach Olson kind of got thrown in the fire so it's difficult to start trying to do something else when you're still trying to install the stuff we do."
Although they're each in their fifth season in the NFL, Sunday will mark the first time Williams and Brown face each other in a regular season game since their rookie years.
They've decided to take advantage of the rare occasion by placing a friendly wager on Sunday's game in Miami. The two friends travel together quite a bit during the offseason, but one of the trips they take together next offseason could become quite costly for the player whose team loses.
Brown and Williams are close, but they aren't in agreement on the destination of their next vacation, which will last two weeks. Should Brown win the bet, the two friends will vacation in Australia. If the wager falls in Williams' favor, the two friends will vacation in Africa.
Whoever's team wins Sunday's game will pay for the travel expenses associated with one of their offseason ventures. Whoever comes up on the short end of the rushing yards produced in Miami this weekend must pay for the activities on that particular vacation.
The 1-7 Bucs would love nothing more than to see Williams vacation with Brown in Africa next year. Williams will attempt to do his part to make those travel plans come to fruition on Sunday.
"This could get really, really expensive," said Williams.
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