The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the 2009 preseason vs. the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night, but the team will take the field without several players, including running back Cadillac Williams.
Williams, 27, missed all of Tampa Bay's offseason workouts while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee after sustaining his second torn patellar tendon injury in as many years in the Bucs' 2008 regular season finale vs. the Oakland Raiders.
While the former first-round pick has performed well and remained healthy in training camp, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris doesn't feel a pressing need to subject Williams to injury.
In fact, Williams will be held out of Tampa Bay's first two preseason games, which means he will not make his preseason debut until the Bucs' home exhibition contest vs. the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 27.
"It's just me being soft," Morris said shortly after the's team's morning walk-thru concluded. "Cadillac has been fine, he's been great. He's been moving around, he's been in all the periods. I just don't think Cadillac needs to get used to getting hit. He knows what it's all about. He's an angry worker. He's doing so well, I just want to keep him on that track."
Williams' absence means Bucs running backs Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward, Kareem Huggins and Clifton Smith will carry the load in the running game for the first two preseason games.
Morris defended his decision to keep Williams, who is listed as the third running back on Tampa Bay's depth chart, out of the first two preseason games of the year, citing the fact that the former Auburn standout saw little preseason action in 2005, but went on to rush for 1,178 yards en route to earning the NFL Rookie of the Year award.
"I'm not going to play Cadillac due to my choice," said Morris. "I think I want to save Cadillac until the third preseason game. As a rookie he didn't run the ball in the entire preseason, or maybe like three carries, and four weeks into the regular season he was in Canton. He might follow that same format."
SEVERAL OTHER PLAYERS TO MISS GAME Several others Bucs players will be held out of Tampa Bay's preseason game vs. Tennessee due to injury, including center Jeff Faine (groin), wide receivers Antonio Bryant (knee surgery), Michael Clayton (hamstring) and Kelly Campbell (quad), linebacker Angelo Crowell (hamstring), kicker Matt Bryant (hamstring) and punter Josh Bidwell (hip).
Morris said the injured players ruled out of Saturday night's game would not make the trip to Tennessee. Instead, most of the ailing players will remain in Tampa and get ready to return to practice next week.
Bucs wide receiver Dexter Jackson, who was held out of Thursday evening's workout at Raymond James Stadium, will play vs. the Titans, according to Morris.
"Dexter just had normal aches and tweaks when you get out of bed in the morning," said Morris. "He just had a little soreness. He'll be fine and you'll see him returning punts and playing receiver in this game."
MORRIS REVEALS QUARTERBACK ROTATION Bucs head coach Raheem Morris announced his plan for the team's four quarterbacks on Saturday night in terms of how much playing time each player will receive in the preseason opener.
Luke McCown will start the game vs. the Titans, and will be followed by Byron Leftwich. Morris said McCown and Leftwich each would play approximately 12-15 snaps. Those veteran signal callers will be followed by rookie Josh Freeman and second-year QB Josh Johnson.
"That will be based on plays as well," Morris said of the 12-15 snaps he plans on having McCown and Leftwich take vs. the Titans. "You don't know how long drives will be, so we want at least 12-15 plays so we can get a grade on the guy. Hopefully that will get us to halftime, and then you'll see a little [Josh] Freeman and Josh [Johnson]."
QUOTE OF THE DAY Bucs head coach Raheem Morris when asked if he was looking forward to getting a break from training camp to coach his first preseason game.
"I've always been a camp guy. I love it. I get to take 17 showers a day, I get to talk to [the media] all day long. I've always been a camp guy. I feel like you have more time and you're more relaxed. I feel like there aren't any pressing issues you need to deal with right then and there. The monotony takes place in the regular season when you're going through the same deal each week, and you've got pressing issues to deal with you try to figure it out as fast as you can so you can get it to your players. We're just working on getting better right now and being our very best self. I've always enjoyed camp. The grueling times people don't like, I love."