Running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams had a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter in a 24-3 victory against the St. Louis Rams and it spelled the last carry for Williams in the game. Head coach Jon Gruden has been critical of any player that fumbles the ball proclaiming that Williams won’t be playing long if he consistently turns the ball over.

Gruden and Williams are both displaying a short-term memory about the fourth quarter blunder heading into Sunday’s battle with the Carolina Panthers. Gruden made it a point to proclaim Williams as the feature back of the offense and remains the starter at running back.

Despite having two fumbles in three games this season, Williams is not worried about turning the ball over in Carolina.

“Life in the NFL you better have a short-term memory whether you’re playing good or bad,” Williams said. “You can be forgotten quickly in this league. I have a short-term memory. With me going into Sunday’s game with two fumbles, that won’t impact the way I play. I’m going to continue to go out there and bust my tail and play hard.”

Even though Williams has yet to rush for over 100 yards so far this season, he does have three rushing touchdowns. He has been battling through sore ribs since the season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, in which he left the game in the third quarter and never returned.

Williams looks at his fumbles as just one of those things that happen more so than him becoming a back that routinely puts the ball on the ground. The third-year running back has seven fumbles total since 2004. The Auburn alum knows that if he doesn’t hold on to the ball, he won’t be in the Bucs backfield for long.

“I don’t look at myself as a fumbling back,” Williams said. “It’s just football. Things do happen. But for me to have two fumbles in the past three games is unacceptable. As a running back, no matter how good you are, you know you can’t play if you continue to fumble. I’m going to continue to do a better job of taking care of the ball.”

Williams’ fumbling concerns aside, he was happy to see running back Earnest Graham receive an opportunity against the Rams. Graham had 75 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns in the win.

“My friendship with Earnest Graham is big,” Williams said. “We play pool every day. He’s a competitor and I’m a competitor. We talk a lot. We’re both SEC backs. E.G. and I have a really good relationship. To see him waiting for his time and working so hard and never complaining about anything, I couldn’t do anything but be happy for the guy.”

Gruden is tired of answering questions about Williams’ health or his ability to run the ball. The head coach believes that it’s only a matter of time before Williams breaks off a big run.

"I don’t have any issues with his health. He’s going to start; he’s fine, he’s going to be okay. He’s had some nice runs and he’s also had a couple of games where he’s gotten nicked up a little bit,” Gruden said. “People are asking that question a lot and rightfully so. You have to hang on to the ball and we are due to see him breakout and make some plays. We are pleased with our whole group of running backs honestly, but Cadillac is going to be fine.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme left Sunday’s 27-20 victory over the Atlanta Falcons after feeling some pain in his right elbow. Quarterback David Carr filled in for Delhomme and could get the start at home against the Bucs on Sunday.

Carr took most of the reps with the first-team offense in practice on Wednesday and is preparing to start. The Bucs are preparing for both Delhomme or Carr, but linebacker Barrett Ruud doesn’t see much of a difference in the offense with either quarterback under center.

“I don’t think it’s a ton different,” Ruud said. “Maybe you have one quarterback that is going to scramble, but other than that they are going to run their stuff. They’re not going to throw a completely different game plan if David Carr will start.”

The Bucs wouldn’t mind seeing Carr running the offense compared to Delhomme, who has been a nemesis against Tampa Bay’s defense in past seasons. Delhomme is 7-1 as a starter against the Bucs in his career. He is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Defensive tackle Jovan Haye, who was drafted by Carolina out of Vanderbilt in 2005, has been having some trouble sleeping this week. The reason for his restlessness is that fact that Haye will be facing his former team for the first time as a starter on the Bucs defense.

Haye played against the Panthers in Week 10 in 2006, but in a limited role. The third-year player is excited about facing his old team. However, he is more worried about getting a victory in Carolina to help the Bucs grab the lead in the NFC South.

“I’m not that sleepy this week, I’m not sleepy at all,” Haye said. “Normally, you try to get as much sleep as possible, but I haven’t really got a lot of sleep this week because I think it might be a little bit special. Just a little and it’s not even about getting back to Carolina, but it’s a divisional game and I got to go back there last year and we lost.”

With the injury to rookie safety Sabby Piscitelli, a fractured right foot that put him on injured reserve ending his season, wide receiver Chad Lucas was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against Carolina. Tackle Jason Capizzi, a 6-foot-9 rookie out of Indiana University in Pennsylvania, and wide receiver Michael Spurlock were signed to the practice squad and guard Enoka Lucas was released.

Wide receiver Joey Galloway and left tackle Luke Petitgout took their normal in-week day off on Wednesday. Defensive end Patrick Chukwurah (knee) and wide receiver Ike Hilliard (ankle) participated in practice and cornerback Brian Kelly (groin) and Greg Spires (ankle) were limited in practice.

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