RB Carnell Williams signed in time to make it to Tampa Bay's very first practice of training camp
Eschewing the notion that nothing would get done until Ronnie Brown and/or Cedric Benson signed with their respective teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rookie running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams reached contract agreement on Friday. The deal was not struck until several hours past midnight; details were not disclosed.
To make room for Williams on the training camp roster, the team released first-year long-snapper Brian Sawyer.
The contract agreement was a home run for both sides in that it allows Williams to hit the practice field at the same time as the rest of his teammates. The Buccaneers hope that Williams will make a significant difference in their 29th-ranked rushing attack, and any extended training camp holdout would have made that difficult.
The Buccaneers began their first practice of camp at 8:35 a.m. on Friday morning. Williams was on the field and in uniform.
On Thursday, as the rest of the team arrived at camp headquarters for check-in, Gruden expressed his hope that Williams would make it to camp without missing too much time. Both sides of the negotiations were clearly striving to meet that goal, but Friday's development was even better than most had hoped. Gruden is thrilled to have Williams in the fold to start camp.
"To be honest with you, I think he's a heck of a football player," said the coach. "I think he's a great kid. I think he has something this football team desperately needs."
The 5-11, 217-pound Williams was the fifth player drafted overall this past April, and the third back after Brown went to Miami second and Benson went to Chicago fourth. Of the four players drafted in front of Williams, only San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the first pick, has signed.
In 42 games at Auburn, Williams rushed 741 times for 3,831 yards (5.2 avg.) and 45 touchdowns, while catching 45 passes for 342 yards and one score. He broke the school record for career points scored (276) and was a first-team All-America choice by the coaches as a senior. He and Brown were teammates in Auburn's backfield as the Tigers completed an undefeated season in 2004.
Sawyer signed with the Buccaneers on January 14, 2005. An undrafted free agent in 2004, he went to training camp with the New England Patriots last summer.