The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the practice field Thursday without two of their best offensive weapons – rookie running back Carnell “Cadillac” Williams and wide receiver Michael Clayton.
While Clayton, who is resting a separated shoulder he’s been playing with since preseason, is still listed as probable on Tampa Bay’s injury report, Williams remains questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the New York Jets with a foot and hamstring injury.
“If the guy’s able to play, he’ll play,” Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said of Williams. “We’ve got to win games. I’ve got a lot of concern with this game. But, Jiminy Christmas, there aren’t a lot of guys in our locker room who feel good right now. That’s just the way it is.
“The guy has a strained arch and with that has come maybe some slight tightness in his hamstring. Every player in football has got to deal with it – young, old, we’ve got a number of guys who are in similar straits as this guy. When you’re a running back and you’re counting on your feet and your counting on your cutting ability, obviously it’s a little more difficult at that position.”
Gruden suggested that the Tampa Bay training staff would ultimately make the decision on whether Williams, who has rushed 99 times for 447 yards (4.5 avg.) and two touchdowns, suits up for the Bucs-Jets contest.
“We’re not going to fool around with it,” said Gruden. “If he’s okay to play, if he’s cleared by our doctors and trainers, he’ll play. If he isn’t, he won’t. This isn’t the preseason. These are regular season games and we have got to win, we have to find ways to win and we need our best players to win games.”
While he’s expected be in the starting lineup on Sunday, Clayton’s injury has allowed younger wide receivers like Edell Shepherd and rookies Paris Warren and J.R. Russell to receive more reps in practice this week.
“He’s been limited before,” Gruden said of Clayton. “It’s not like he wasn’t limited the whole offseason and limited at times during camp while he was working himself back in. We’ve got plenty of alternatives that we’re working on, and Ike Hilliard will be a part of it, certainly. Edell Shepherd’s a young guy who will get a chance, and we’ll see what happens. But we expect Clayton to play and if he doesn’t then we’ll have guys ready who are.”
Tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder) and safety Dexter Jackson are listed as probable on Tampa Bay’s injury report. Bucs S Jermaine Phillips (thumb) was held out of practice for the second straight day and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game vs. the Jets.
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