He didn’t report to Celebration Hotel with his teammates, but Tampa Bay first-round draft pick, running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, signed his rookie contract in time to take the field with them Thursday at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.

Williams was the only draft pick left unsigned by the Buccaneers when the rest of the team reported to training camp on Thursday afternoon, but the team and Williams’ agent, Ben Dogra, were able to complete the rookie’s deal just after midnight, which allowed the Cadillac to arrive in Orlando around 2:30 a.m.

“It’s a credit to him,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Williams. “He wanted to get in here and with today being the first day of practice, there was no way he was going to miss a practice. He told me that when we got him. He delivered on his end of the bargain. His agent and (general manager) Bruce Allen did a great job. He wants to make an immediate impact, and in order to do that I think he understands that he needed to be out here immediately.”

One of the reasons why Williams hired Dogra as his agent was because he felt like he’d be able to get him into training camp on time.

“It was very important,” Williams said of reporting to camp in time to participate in the Bucs’ first practice. “That’s why I stressed to my agent that I definitely wanted to be there the first day competing for a starting job and contributing to the team. I felt like it was very important, so I’m very happy with that.”

Getting Williams out on the field in time for the first training camp practice was apparently just as important to Allen, who met with Williams at One Buc Place around midnight.

“The ace in our hole is Bruce Allen,” said Valero. “You knew with Cadillac out there and all of the other players here, Bruce was going to find a way to get it done.”

Williams’ teammates were happy to see him participate in both of Tampa Bay’s training camp practices on Friday.

“He was a first-round pick and the next upcoming star,” said Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton. “He had a great year last year and everyone is expecting him to meet that standard. By him being here, it’s been very important. I know him, but it’s important for the rest of the team to get to know him better and for him to get acclimated. You can tell by the way he carries himself that he’s ready to work.”

Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese suggested Williams couldn’t afford to miss any training camp practices since the rookie has a lot to learn.

“It’s good to have all the rookies out there,” said Griese. “They have a lot to learn, and the most amount of room to improve. Training camp is really, when you get down to it, it is as long as it is, and we have the two-a-day practices, so the younger guys can learn the system. It’s good to have them all here in the beginning so they can learn, and get to know their other teammates as well. It’s big.”

And if the Bucs and Cadillac hadn’t worked out a contract in time for Friday morning’s practice?

“I was going to change his name to Dodge Ram if he didn’t get in here,” Gruden said jokingly.

According to Gruden, Tampa Bay’s first training camp practice, which was held Friday morning with the players sporting shorts, jerseys and helmets, went fairly well.

“Yeah, it was good,” said Gruden. “The first practice back, when you throw a lot at them… we put a ton of plays in the last night, obviously, to get their attention. It was kid of an examination today. And we’re not operating against a defense that’s very yielding against the forward pass. They’re number one in the world against the pass the forward pass. It’s hard to find completions a lot of the time against this style of defense because they’re talented and they know what they’re doing. But there were some good things. I thought all three quarterbacks showed signs of progress.”

Tampa Bay placed three players – running back Charlie Garner, wide receiver Larry Brackins and offensive lineman Kevin Fischer – on the physically unable to perform list on Friday.

Gruden is hoping Garner, who was jogging and sprinting along the sideline during Tampa Bay’s morning practice, is making a lot of progress, can contribute in some form or fashion at some point this season.

“I think he’s really worked hard in rehabbing the knee,” Gruden said of Garner. “Now rehabbing knee and conditioning yourself to play NFL running back the way he plays is two different things. The knee has responded well, and he’s passed his physical. For Charlie Garner to be Charlie Garner, he’s got to get himself back into the grind. He’s got to get acclimated to this heat and get back into tip-top shape. If he can do that it would be exciting because I know what he’s got on his resume’ and what he’s got in his tank. We’re going to keep our fingers crossed and work him into shape. Hopefully he can make an impact for us at some point this season.”

The Bucs are taking a cautious approach with several players in an effort to make sure the team enters the regular season much healthier than it has over the past two seasons.

“Joey Galloway’s on a program where he’ll work most of the time in the afternoon,” said Gruden. “In the morning he’ll go through the individual type work and we’ll monitor what he does. He’s a guy who will be on a one-a-day routing. Some of our veteran linebackers will work once a day; that would be Shelton Quarles and Derrick Brooks and Jeff Gooch. But we want to see Barrett Ruud and Marquis Cooper and Ryan Nece, that second group of linebackers.. There will be a few other guys – Ronde Barber along the way and Brian Kelly – some guys who we want to take care of.. Simeon Rice… there might be some guys that we take a good look at and try to monitor how much they get and what they’re getting.

While Gruden was encouraged by Clayton’s performance in practice on Monday morning, he said the second-year receiver had a ways to go in terms of conditioning himself for the regular season.

“His conditioning, although he was healthy and played in every game last year, I think he realizes the tip-top shape you’ve got to be in the fourth quarter in a two-minute drive, especially at home in the hot sun,” Gruden said of Clayton, who had offseason knee surgery. “He’s going to be a work in progress to get into tip-top shape. He might tell you he’s in pretty good shape, feels okay, but I did see his tongue hanging out towards the end of that workout.”

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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