RB Cadillac Williams wants to be more involved in the passing attack but most importantly wants to be on the field for 16 games
By his own admission, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back and 2005 NFL Rookie of the Year Carnell "Cadillac" Williams spent most of last season's training camp learning the team's offense and trying to prove to his teammates and coaches that he was capable of playing at the NFL level. Having successfully accomplished that goal, he's focusing this year on staying healthy and thereby reaching even greater heights.
Make no mistake: Williams is still working as hard as ever to improve his game, but after suffering a nagging left foot sprain last season that forced him to miss two games and hampered him for several others, the second-year phenom has made health a priority in 2006.
"That's my number one goal, to play all 16 games," Williams said. "To stay healthy of course. But we are playing with physical contact. It is what it is. But I feel great about this season."
As well he should.
As a rookie, Williams raced to the most successful start of any first-year running back in NFL history, piling up 434 yards over his first three games and becoming the first running back in league annals to begin his career with three straight 100-yard games. By the time his fourth game rolled around, his shoes were already in Canton. Then came the full force of the injury, which he actually suffered during the second of those three games. Not only did it force him to the sidelines for two contests, it reduced his carries to a total of only 34 over the following three games – a stark contrast to the 88 he tallied over his first three outings.
"It was weird because it built up to a lot of things," Williams explained. "It was mostly the bottom of my foot. I sprained some tendons, and it just kept on getting worse."
Determined to do everything in his power to prevent a similar injury this year, Williams visited Nike in the off season where he underwent a series of tests aimed at helping him find the perfect shoe.
"I took a long trip out to Oregon," he said. "That's where Nike's base is. Basically, they measured my foot, had me do some computer running, and things like that. They are actually going to customize the shoe for my foot, for my arch and everything. I am definitely looking forward to that. Actually, they just came in today. I am looking forward to practicing in them."
The focal point of a much improved offense, Williams expects to be involved in possibly even more plays this year, and Head Coach Jon Gruden has already stated at training camp that he hopes Williams can play a larger role in the passing game. When asked how his star running back can improve upon his successful rookie year, Gruden was unsurprisingly blunt.
"Well, he can stay healthy and go wire-to-wire for 16 games," he said. "That's what Emmitt Smith did. That's what the great backs in this league do. I think he understands that."
So far, Williams said he feels great.
"I am cutting, and sprinting [better]," he said. "I just feel a lot swifter this year. I know that might be because I feel more confident. I feel like I am going to dominate. I'm heavier this year so I am definitely looking forward to this year."
Really, the only discomfort Williams is currently feeling comes courtesy of his training camp roommate, wide receiver Michael Clayton.
"He snores in his sleep," joked Williams. "He's kind of messy, too. I sometimes have to pick up after him. At times, I actually have to rough him up. Sometimes he will get out of line and leave stuff everywhere. And the way I put him back in line is to rough him up physically. But Mike has come a long way."