For the first time since October of 2005, it looks as if Bucs running back Cadillac Williams might miss a regular season game.
On Friday, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said Williams’ condition has been downgraded from questionable to doubtful for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.
He has not practiced all week due to what he described earlier this week as a bruise on the top of his right foot, which he suffered in the third quarter of the Bears game.
It was a sprain to his left foot that forced him to miss games against the New York Jets and Miami last season.
Williams had failed to rush for more than 50 yards in any of the three games this month and averaged just 14 carries per outing.
Gruden did not say who would start should Williams not be able to go, but fullback Mike Alstott and backup running back Michael Pittman have been splitting the majority of carries in practice.
TIGHT END TROUBLES Cleveland’s Kellen Winslow leads the league in receptions among tight ends with 76. That’s more than Pro Bowlers Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez and good enough for 13th among all NFL pass catchers.
That number also puts him within 13 receptions of tying Ozzie Newsome for Cleveland’s franchise record. Winslow has led the Browns in receiving in six games this season.
The Bucs secondary was exposed last week by Bears tight end Desmond Clark, who caught seven passes for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bucs safety Will Allen feels the defense will be ready for the challenge this time out.
“We got caught in some tough situations [against Chicago] as far as some zone pressures,” Allen said. “They did some things that hurt us in cover two.
“[Bears head coach] Lovie Smith knows our weaknesses because he coached here and he knew what could get us and they executed perfectly.”
Allen says he isn’t sure how the Browns will respond or if they looked at he film and saw some areas of weakness in the Bucs secondary, but he knows Winslow is a great competitor and has a great deal of respect for him.
OHIO PLAYERS Everybody likes to be home for the holidays and for several Bucs, like safety Will Allen, the trip to the Buckeye state will a homecoming of sorts.
Allen grew up in Dayton, Ohio, roughly three hours from where he and the Bucs will be playing Sunday. Much of his family still lives there and they are expected to make the trip.
Not to worry though, with Dayton much closer to Cincinnati, the family has an allegiance to the Bengals, not the Browns.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden also has ties to the state. He was born in Sandusky, Ohio. Defensive tackle Chris Hovan hails from Rocky River while wide receiver Joey Galloway is from Bellaire and played his college ball at Ohio State University.
ANOTHER TEST FOR SPECIAL TEAMS Last week, Pro Bowl alternate Torrie Cox and the Bucs special teams proved they could contain the league’s most dangerous kick returner in Devin Hester. But things don’t get much easier against the Browns who have two excellent special team players in kick returner Josh Cribbs and punt returner Dennis Northcutt.
Cribbs leads the NFL in kick return yards with 1,346. Sure, he has had more opportunities (54) in which to compile those yards considering the Browns scoring defense is among the bottom of the league, but he still ranks 11th in terms of average with 24.9 yards per return.
His 1,094 return yards in 2005 set a Browns franchise record and this season, he has posted four kickoff returns of 50 yards or more. In week 11, Cribbs had a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Pittsburgh.
At 5-foot-11, 171 pounds, wide receiver/punt returner Dennis Northcutt is a shifty player who has the ability to go the distance on any return. He’s done it three times in his seven-year career.
He is third in the NFL in punt returns this season averaging 11.1 yards per return including a long of 81.
Tampa Bay held Hester to nine yards per return last week, but did allow a touchdown to rookie Reggie Bush at New Orleans in Week 5.
INJURY REPORT Tight end Alex Smith and cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Torrie Cox were taken off the injury list on Friday and are expected to play. CB Juran Bolden (quadricep), LB Jamie Winborn (knee) and CB Alan Zemaitis (shoulder) are listed as questionable.
RB Cadillac Williams (foot) is doubtful.Williams did not practice.
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