He’s not Keyshawn Johnson. He’s not Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson, either. Perhaps it’s because he is only one year removed from his rookie season, or maybe just because he is not that type of player, but Bucs running back Cadillac Williams refuses to be a part of any mutiny concerning the Bucs’ offensive strategy and its lack of production.
Eight carries seems to be the reoccurring point of concern when it comes to Williams’ participation, or lack thereof, in the offense. Twice this season, against Baltimore in Week 1 and again last week at New York, eight has been the number, and eight hasn’t been enough.
At Wednesday’s practice, Williams expressed the need to carry the ball 12-15 times per game to “get in the groove of things.” His body language and tone of voice would suggest he is somewhat frustrated, but, for now, Williams is speaking along company lines.
“I mean, I agree , but you know, it’s not my call. I’m here to do whatever is in the best interest for the team,” Williams said.
“It’s not my decision [what is called]. I have total confidence in the offensive staff and what Coach Gruden is trying to do.”
Williams agreed with the philosophy Gruden took against the Giants Sunday, saying he understood that the wind and the fact the team was behind dictated a certain game plan that called for 48 pass plays and just 13 runs.
Ironically, the Bucs are facing a coach in this week’s game against New Orleans who recently went through a similar situation.
In a conference call with the media on Wednesday, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton said he failed to get his star running backs, Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush, enough touches in Sunday’s 35-22 loss to Baltimore. Each carried the ball five times for a combined 27 yards.
Like the Bucs, New Orleans quickly fell behind in its game, forcing Saints QB Drew Brees to attempt 45 passes. Bucs rookie QB Bruce Gradkowski put up 48 in Sunday’s loss to the Giants.
Considering the fact that Williams’ only 100-yard rushing game this season came against the Saints in Week 4, in which he ran for 111 yards on 20 rushes, may present a chance to get Cadillac rolling again.
In Wednesday’s conference call with the media, McAllister agreed that sometimes the game can dictate strategy and that you can’t continue to be “hard-headed” and run the ball into eight-man fronts. He also sympathized with Williams’ position.
“We as running backs feel like if we’re not getting touches, we’re not involved,” McAllister said. “Then, later in the game, if you need us to get two or three yards, we don’t know if we can make a guy miss because we don’t feel involved in the game.”
Gruden said last Sunday’s strategy shouldn’t be looked at as a trend. “We’re going to run the ball if that gives us a chance to win,” he said.
Williams said there were times in college when he did go to his coach and voice his opinion about getting more carries, but he doesn’t see the need for that type of confrontation at this point.
“I love to carry the rock on Sunday,” Williams said. “Hopefully this Sunday we can get some things rolling and control the line of scrimmage and get the run game going.”
He also said carrying only eight times is something he doesn’t want to get in the habit of doing.
Just in case anyone on the Bucs’ special teams unit had amnesia and forgot about New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush’s game-wining punt return in their last meeting, special teams coordinator Richard Bisaccia had a funny, or rather sarcastic way of reminding them.
Posted inside each special teams player’s locker this week is either an 8 x 10 headshot of Bush or an action photo of his 65-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Bucs. Each was signed in bold ink with a little message as if it were from Bush himself.
“You play like you are from Nebraska. There is no way you can tackle me,” appeared on a photo in linebacker Barrett Ruud’s locker.
“Dam, I’m pretty. You talk a lot for a guy that’s on the punt team. What did you say? You got to tackle who? Yeah, bring it.” signed RB, was left in Jamie Winborn’s locker.
Bush ranks fourth in the NFC in punt returns, averaging 10.7 yards with the lone touchdown. He left Sunday’s game against the Ravens with a twisted ankle and is listed questionable for his reunion with Tampa Bay. Saints coach Sean Payton said Bush has felt a lot better in the last couple days since the injury occurred.
THE SECOND DATE IS ALWAYS EASIER
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden spoke earlier this week about seeing different defensive fronts week to week and how his young quarterback was basically starting from scratch with each new opponent.
For the first time in his young career, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski will have an opportunity to face a repeat opponent.
“I’m very excited this week,” Gradkowski said. “It’s kind of a team we’re a little bit familiar with. It was my first start so I’m going to feel a little bit more comfortable out there and the game is at home so I’m going to go out there looking forward to this game.”
The rookie signal caller has been watching a lot of film from his first encounter with the Saints, but wouldn’t be surprised to see some new things thrown at him this time around. He did have his best outing to date against New Orleans, completing 65 percent of his passes for two touchdowns in the loss. He finished the game with a 107.6 passer rating.
Gruden has somewhat restrained his pupil since, calling for a more conservative game plan against tough defenses like Philadelphia and New York, asking Gradkowski to do the one thing he feels is pivotal to winning, protect the ball.
“That’s the starting point with a young quarterback, let’s not turn the ball over,” Gruden said.
“When you’re getting on-the-job training in the Meadowlands and against the Philadelphia Eagles and against the Bengals and teams like New Orleans, that’s a real good way to start. You keep your defense in pretty good situations and you give your team a chance to win.”
The Bucs and Saints mirror one another to a tee as far as takeaways. Each team has nine, four interceptions and five fumbles. With just one interception in his first 150 attempts, Gradkowski has played on the side of caution.
Saints head coach Sean Payton doesn’t anticipate major changes in his defensive scheme this week, but will add a few new wrinkles in an effort to keep Gradkowski off balance.
If there is an area to attack New Orleans’ defense, it would most likely be its run defense, which is ranked 21st in the league. However the Bucs passing game, and wide receiver Joey Galloway, in particular, tasted success the first time around.
“Offensively, we had a pretty good day,” Galloway said in reference to the team’s last meeting in New Orleans. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make enough plays down the stretch to win the game. I think that this time around we see some things that we can do.”
Saints cornerbacks Fred Thomas and Mike McKenzie play bump and run, challenging receivers. Their defense has four interceptions, none of which belong to them, though. But the Saints are one of the few teams left in the league that play man-to-man coverage, something Galloway feels the Bucs offense can exploit and turn into opportunities.
Missed opportunities were the topic of discussion following the Bucs’ loss to the Giants. Galloway dropped two long balls, and fellow receiver Michael Clayton dropped what would have been a touchdown. Galloway knows there are plays to be made and that he and the team must forget about recent miscues.
“I think that Bruce [Gradkowski] is a guy that has matured very well and played pretty good so we just keep it light,” Galloway said. “Everybody is disappointed about what happened in New York, but I think that we come out today, try to work on fixing those mistakes and just get better. Anybody that’s played football for a while knows you have to have a short memory. You have to let it go and get ready for the next game.”
Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles (knee), defensive end Simeon Rice (shoulder), defensive tackle Ellis Wyms (ankle).
Quarterback Chris Simms (Splenectomy) is out and could be placed on injured reserve later this week should the Bucs decide to activate QB Luke McCown.
The decision isn’t up to me,” Simms said when asked if he was going to be placed on injured reserve. “[Bucs general manager] Bruce Allen and Coach Gruden I’m sure will figure out what’s best for me and what’s best for the team. I’ll just let them make the decision.”
Cornerback Juran Bolden (hip) is listed as probable for the Saints game.
Quarles, Rice, Simms and Wyms were held out of Wednesday’s practice at One Buc Place.