Bucs fullback Mike Alstott and backup running backs Michael Pittman and Earnest Graham continued to split carries with the Bucs’ first-team offense on Thursday as Cadillac Williams missed his second day of practice with an injured right foot.
Williams was wearing a protective boot over the foot as a precaution and spent the day receiving treatment as he feels he will be ready to play on Sunday against the Browns.
But listening to Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, Cadillac’s availability is up in the air at this point.
“He’s still wearing his boot, he’s still questionable for the game and the longer he wears the boot, the more questionable he becomes,” Gruden said.
The injury, which he describes as a bruise on the top of his foot, occurred early in the third quarter of the Chicago game when Cadillac says 318-pound defensive tackle Alfonso Boone stepped on it.
At the time, Williams felt it wasn’t that bad to where he needed to come out of the game. And it’s not the same foot that he injured last season and kept him out of two games.
He appeared to be walking on it without much difficulty on Thursday and says he wants to get back and finish the season.
“It’s real important [for me to finish],” Williams said. “It’s been a tough year for us, but I would like to finish out these two games so I’m doing whatever I can. I’m here getting treatment, I’m in the whirlpool doing all I can do to get on the field Sunday.”
HE’S GOT LEGS AND KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM Be careful to label Ike Hilliard a possession receiver just yet. His 44-yard touchdown against the Bears on Sunday showed he still has game-breaking ability. The touchdown was his longest since 2000, almost six years to the date when he went 59 yards against Pittsburgh on Dec. 10.
That score came when he was a member of the New York Giants, a team that drafted him for his ability to stretch the field. He averaged more than 10 yards per catch over his first eight seasons with the Giants and in 2004, his last season before coming to Tampa Bay, he caught a 43-yard touchdown against Philadelphia in the season opener.
Sure, he’s got some mileage, but don’t call him over the hill.
“Everybody is saying I’m old, I’ve had seven surgeries and 10 years in the league. I let people have their own opinion,” Hilliard said. “No, I’m not a 4.32 (40-yard dash) guy anymore. I used to run that fast when I was 170 pounds but I’m not 170 pounds anymore.
“I’m not out to prove anybody wrong, I just know if I have the opportunity and someone is not that fast to catch me, I’ll get in.”
Hilliard said the play in Chicago just came together with the right pattern and the right throw at the right time. He ran a slant route with the cornerback playing off of him a bit and quarterback Tim Rattay put the ball right where he could catch it and not lose a step. Hilliard got a good jump off the line of scrimmage, the safety took a bad angle and the cornerback couldn’t catch him.
It wasn’t too long ago that he recalls going 88 yards against the Jets in a preseason game. But it has been a while between big plays in the regular season. Say what you like, he’s just trying to step up.
“People have been throwing me over the bridge and so on and so forth, I just know that it felt good to bring it home,” Hilliard said. “Coach [Gruden] has been asking for play making like that from everybody, not just Joey [Galloway], and I was just fortunate enough to get in from 44.
“It is what it is. Everybody is going to be entitled to their opinion, call me old, slow. Great, that’s fine.”
The Bucs could’ve used a lot more plays like Hilliard’s earlier in the year and Gruden thinks he still has the ability to make them.
“Ike has had a good season for us,” Gruden said. “He’s caught some balls underneath, but when you put the ball a foot in front of the guy’s numbers, where he has a chance to run with it, I think he still has very good functional speed for this game.”
A FOURTH-ROUND MYSTERY Tight end Alex Smith tweaked his ankle in Wednesday’s practice and was added to Thursday’s injury report as was cornerback Alan Zemaitis, who is nursing a bad shoulder. Both are listed as questionable.
Zemaitis has been somewhat of a conundrum this year. A 2005 semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe award, which honors the nation’s best collegiate defensive back, the third-round pick has been inactive for all 14 of the Bucs’ games this season.
With several injuries at the cornerback position, including starter Brian Kelly and then Juran Bolden, it would seem the fourth-round draft pick would be a valuable asset.
But the Bucs signed Phillip Buchanon earlier this year, which is one reason Gruden gave for not seeing Zemaitis. The other was the play of special teamer Torrie Cox, who occupies a roster spot at cornerback.
Gruden addressed the issue after practice on Thursday.
“[Zemaitis] has a little bit of an injury problem that is somewhat of a concern to me, and us,” Gruden said. “But he’s got an upside and he will be a good player here. He’s just got to finish this season strong, know what to do as he enters the offseason program and earn his stripes next year.
“There are a lot of guys that don’t dress or don’t play as rookies.”
INJURY REPORT RB Cadillac Williams (foot), TE Alex Smith (ankle), CB Alan Zemaitis (shoulder), CB Juran Bolden (quadriceps), CB Phillip Buchannon (groin), CB Torrie Cox (neck) and LB Jamie Winborn (knee) are all questionable.