Tampa Bay running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams' career was in doubt when the team learned that he had sustained a torn patellar tendon in his knee in Week 4 of the 2007 regular season vs. the Carolina Panthers.
But with Tampa Bay a little more than one month away from reporting to Celebration Hotel for the start of training camp on July 25, the Bucs are cautiously optimistic that Williams might return to action on the field at some point this year.
Williams, the 2005 NFL Rookie of the Year, spent a significant amount of time working with trainer Todd Toriscelli on the football field on Tuesday, and his vigorous rehab routine has been a common one and hasn't gone unnoticed by head coach Jon Gruden and the rest of the team.
"He ran great today," Gruden said of Williams. "It's one of the most amazing comebacks I've seen. He hasn't come back yet, but he's banging on the door. Our fans would really be proud of him. He's running fast.
"He's putting himself through an unbelievable workout routine. I've never seen anything like it. It rivals some of the Rocky Balboa moves you see on television. This is very important to him. God bless him. I think his work ethic and determination has really stimulated our coaching staff and players."
Williams, who was selected by the Bucs in the first-round of the 2005 NFL Draft, apparently went as far as lobbying the coaching and training staff to get on the field for the mandatory mini-camp, but to no avail.
"He's ready to go if you ask him," Gruden said of Williams. "He's really putting some good tape together. He's not allowed to be part of the team activities, but the explosive movement, change of direction, stamina and confidence appear to be coming back. That's what is really exciting. He doesn't appear to have any setbacks at this point. I just keep my fingers crossed and hope it continues at this point because it's really exciting.
"He's been asking to come out here and play since the program started in April. He doesn't want to miss a rep. If there's one great story to come out of here today it's Carnell Williams. I'm really proud to witness it."
In the meantime, the Bucs will rely heavily on Earnest Graham, Warrick Dunn and Michael Bennett to fill the void left by Williams.
In other injury news, Bucs rookie running back Cory Boyd will not be ready until training camp due to a knee injury he suffered during the team's rookie mini-camp in May. The knee injury is not considered serious.
Left tackle Luke Petitgout, who suffered a partially torn ACL in Week 4 vs. the Panthers, is being held out of this week's three-day mandatory mini-camp. Like Williams, Petitgout is considered to be on the mend and should be ready for the start of training camp in July.
"He's good," Gruden said of Petitgout. "He's in his stance and he's getting in and out of it easily. He's much like Carnell where he had a serious knee injury and we really need him back. We're really encouraged with the way he feels and the way he looks.
"I anticipate [Petitgout will be ready for training camp], but I'll wait until the training staff green lights it and wait for more information."
Bucs wide receiver Taye Biddle left the practice field on Tuesday morning with an unknown injury.
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