Tampa Bay has lost significant depth at safety due to injuries through the first two games of the 2009 regular season. Now, the injury bug has taken its toll on the Bucs' offensive backfield, where three of their running backs are listed on the team's injury report.
Two of those backs – Cadillac Williams (knee) and Earnest Graham (hamstring) – are listed as questionable for Tampa Bay's game vs. the New York Giants. Williams is optimistic that he will play.
"Yeah, more of a game time (decision), but the way I'm feeling now, I should be good (to play)," Williams said. "[It is] a lot better than it was a few days ago. I went out there today and did some things, so a lot better."
Williams, who suffered two major knee injuries in consecutive seasons from 2007-08, has what the Bucs have deemed "knee soreness." Williams started the first two games of the year and currently is the team's leading rusher with 106 yards on 20 carries (5.3 avg.) and two total touchdowns.
"Yeah, he's got soreness from the turf," Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said Friday. "He had full participation today, but we'll have to wait and see."
While it's unclear whether he'll play, Williams will not start vs. the Giants. Instead, the Bucs will start former Giants RB Derrick Ward, who has rushed for 94 yards (4.5 avg.) and scored a touchdown.
"We're going to start Derrick. He'll get the first crack at his old boys," said Morris. "I don't even know that we have a starter around here. We have a three-headed monster."
In addition to Williams and Graham, the Bucs also have running back/return specialist Clifton Smith listed on the injury report. He is nursing a quad injury, but is listed as probable for Sunday's game.
Should Smith not be able to make it through Sunday's contest, Bucs rookie wide receiver Sammie Stroughter would handle punt and kickoff return duties.
Tampa Bay is also banged up at wide receiver, where Antonio Bryant and Maurice Stovall are dealing with knee injuries. Stovall said he sustained the knee injury during the game against the Bills, and would be a game-time decision for Sunday. Stovall was tight-lipped about what was exactly wrong with his knee.
"I don't know if I can speak about my injury," said Stovall. "I'm aright. I'll be fine."
Stovall, who started in place of Bryant last week, is listed as doubtful. Bryant, who missed the entire preseason after undergoing minor knee surgery in training camp, caught two passes in Tampa Bay's regular season opener before leaving that contest due to soreness in his knee.
Last week, Bryant was listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. He did not play vs. the Buffalo Bills. The Bucs currently have Bryant listed as questionable, and Morris said the team has seen some improvement in his health status.
"We saw movement, he had a couple of limited days and his work with the trainer," said Morris. "All those things, and his mentality, were part of that. He's getting better and better as we speak."
Should Stovall and Bryant be unable to play vs. the Giants, Bucs wide receiver Brian Clark would make the first start of his pro career. Outside of Bryant, linebacker Matt McCoy is listed as questionable with a back injury.
Bucs center Jeff Faine (triceps) and rookie defensive end Kyle Moore (knee) have already been ruled out of the upcoming game vs. the Giants. Sean Mahan will start in place of Faine for the second straight week.
Rookie defensive tackle Roy Miller (ankle), tight end John Gilmore (ankle), and cornerback Elbert Mack (shoulder) practiced most of the week and are listed as probable for the Bucs-Giants game, which kicks off at 1:00 p.m. ET at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
The New York Giants had a number of players ruled out for the game. That list was comprised of: defensive tackle Chris Canty (calf), wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot), cornerback Aaron Ross (hamstring), running back Danny Ware (elbow), and linebacker Clint Sintim (groin). Questionable for the game are: cornerback Kevin Dockery (hamstring), wide receiver Domenik Hixon (knee), defensive end Justin Tuck (shoulder), and offensive lineman Adam Koets (ankle). Giants starting safety Kenny Phillips was put on injured reserve this week, ending his season.