Former Buccaneers starting running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams signed a one-year, league-minimum deal with St. Louis. Williams recovered from two devastating knee injuries in the 2007 and '08 seasons to play all 16 games the last two years, but did not regain his speed following the injuries.
The Carnell “Cadillac” Williams era in Tampa Bay is over as the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft signed a one-year deal [league minimum $685,000] with the St. Louis Rams. The former Auburn star is expected to serve as Steven Jackson’s backup and see action on third down. The Rams have spent the past two off seasons looking for someone to share carries with Jackson, who has carried the ball more than 320 times per game for the past three seasons.
The Gadsen, Alabama native was a fan favorite in Tampa Bay, earning the respect of those who witnessed his remarkable comeback from two major knee injuries during the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was a big fan of Williams and was sad to see him depart in free agency after a six-year tenure in Tampa Bay.
“Obviously, very similar to Barrett [Ruud] to me,” Morris said. “One of those guys who was definitely a team leader. Of course he will always be remembered for that red 24. And what he brought to our team and what he brought to us. You want to talk about character, blown out knees, coming back two years in a row. We all remember that sentimental injury against Carolina and how he was coming back and how badly we felt for him. Those times you will never forget. It’s the business. But again, you move on and embrace this new battle.”
Williams, 28, has had some emotional, up-and-down seasons with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay selected the 5-foot-11, 217-pound with the team’s first-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Williams took the league by storm and set an NFL record by rushing for 434 yards in his first three games as a pro. That accomplishment got Williams’ cleats and gloves into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and he would later go on to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
But injuries plagued Williams over the next few years and he suffered a torn patellar tendon in 2007 at Carolina, which ended his season. Williams made a comeback near the end of the 2008 season, but he suffered the same injury on his opposite knee during the season finale against Oakland.
Just when it looked like his career may be in jeopardy, the resilient Williams made another comeback and started all 16 games in 2009, while rushing for 823 yards on 211 carries (3.9 avg.) and scoring four touchdowns. Williams also had 28 receptions for 217 yards (7.8 avg.) and three touchdowns.
Williams entered the 2010 season as the starter in the backfield, but struggled early in the year, averaging 2.5 yards per carry. At the midway point of the season, rookie LeGarrette Blount began to receive the bulk of the carries and Williams was regulated to mostly third down work. He finished last season with 125 carries for 437 yards (3.5 avg.) and two touchdowns. Williams also had a career-high 46 receptions for 355 yards (7.7 avg.) and one touchdown.
During his six seasons in Tampa Bay, Williams had 3,677 yards on 968 carries (3.8 avg.) and 20 rushing touchdowns. He also had 134 catches for 909 yards (6.8 avg.) and four scores.
With Williams no longer an option to compete for the role of the team’s third down back, the Buccaneers seem content to enter the season with Earnest Graham getting the first shot at taking over those duties and the second-team running back spot, behind starter LeGarrette Blount.
While Graham is the front-runner to take over the Williams role, Morris said there are others in the mix.
“[Kregg] Lumpkin, [and] Allen Bradford has stepped into that battle,” Morris said. “We have some other guys. Mossis Madu, some guys that you don’t know their names yet, but you will. We are going to let those guys fight a little bit. Let those guys play.”– Mark Cook, Charlie Campbell and Scott Reynolds contributed to this report
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.