RB Cadillac Williams managed to avoid any significant injury to his foot and should practice Thursday
For the first time since he signed a middle-of-the-night contract in order to make it to his first training camp workout on time, rookie running back Cadillac Williams has missed a practice.
Don't worry, it's not a trend.
Actually, Williams, who suffered a left foot sprain near halftime of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 19-3 win over Buffalo on Sunday, did do a few things on the practice field Wednesday afternoon, and he completed the morning walk-through, but he didn't go full-speed or take part in the team drills. He is expected to participate fully in Thursday's practice and is expected to play this coming Sunday in Green Bay.
"He appears to be ready to go," said Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden. "He's going to be ready to go tomorrow and he's going to play in the game, so he's alright."
Williams briefly work a protective boot on Monday, and he received X-rays on the foot to check for possible fractures. But the exams uncovered nothing significant and Williams says he has improved noticeably since Monday.
"It's doing good," he reported. "It feels a whole lot better than two days ago. I'm still getting treatment, still resting it, and just getting ready to go this week.
"It's still a little sore, but it's nothing to be worried about."
On any given Monday, the Bucs' locker room is full of players who are trying to work pain and stiffness out of various parts of their bodies. Gruden often reserves judgment on an injured player until the player comes back on Wednesday after his off-day and tries to practice. In Williams' case, Gruden probably had a pretty good feel for the eventual answer as early as the second half of Sunday's game against Buffalo. When Williams basically insisted on going back into the game after hurting his foot, Gruden got another clear indication of how tough the rookie runner is.
"He's just a great competitor who wants to play," said Gruden. "That's one of the things that makes him unique. That's a great strength of his, his mental and physical toughness. His want-to, his drive, his motivation is tremendous. I learned that first-hand on Sunday. It was great to be a part of it."
There were some nervous moments right after Williams suffered the injury. After his foot stuck in the grass as he collided with Buffalo safety Lawyer Milloy, Williams felt a tweak and immediately feared that he had fractured something in his foot. Had he been unable to continue, had the injury been a long-term problem, Tampa Bay's offense would have suffered. With 276 yards through two games – and perhaps most importantly, a gain of some sort on almost every run – Williams has made the Bucs' offense much more difficult to defend. The team is more often in third-and-short situations rather than third-and-long, and the defense can't always assume a pass is coming.
"Last year we didn't really look to run the ball first," said quarterback Brian Griese. "We were really a passing team and I think that we're getting more and more balanced now. I'm not positive what our run-to-pass ratio is right now, but I'm pretty sure it's more run than it is pass. So, it gives us an ability to be more balanced, which is important."
The Bucs, in fact, have run 71 rushing plays and 54 passing plays. With 337 rushing yards and 326 net passing yards, Tampa Bay is one of only three teams (also Atlanta and Houston) that has moved the ball more on the ground than through the air so far. Williams himself is pursuing the best three-game rushing total ever for a player beginning his NFL career.
It looks as if he'll be able to chase that in Green Bay.
"He'll practice tomorrow," said Gruden. "We gave him one extra day and he'll be ready to go tomorrow."
Guard Matt Stinchcomb, who has been inactive for the first two games due to a lower back strain, was the only other player who did not practice for the Bucs on Wednesday. Gruden indicated that Stinchcomb's condition is improving, but he is still listed as questionable on the Bucs' official injury report.
Quarles "Well-Deserving" of Honor
Earlier on Wednesday, linebacker Shelton Quarles became the first Buc to win a Player of the Week award this season, taking the NFC Defensive Player honors. It was the first such award for Quarles, who did win special teams honors one week in 1997, and Gruden felt it was an outstanding choice by the league.
"He had a great game, obviously," said Gruden, recalling Quarles' 10 tackles, one sack and one safety. "He is our middle linebacker, he's our signal-caller, he doesn't come off the field, he plays on every down and he's a sideline-to-sideline guy. He's a really great player and he's well-deserving of that honor."
Quarles is currently the leading tackler on a defense that ranks first in the league in yards allowed and is rekindling images of 1999 and 2002. Tampa Bay's defense has yet to allow a touchdown this season, but Quarles is not yet satisfied with what his crew has accomplished.
"It feels pretty good, but we can't rest on what we have done," he said. "It's in the past and we have to keep moving forward, and getting better. Regardless of the things we have been doing good, there are still some bad plays here and there. We've been lucky they haven't been exploited and we just need to keep doing what were doing, and pound the rock."
Don't Count Them Out
Want evidence that the Packers are still a dangerous team, even at 0-2? Look no further than last year.
The 2004 Packers opened the season with a 1-4 record, even losing their first two games at Lambeau Field, a shocking development at the time. However, Green Bay won nine of its last 11 contests, took the NFC North by two games and was the conference's third seed in the playoffs.
Furthermore, there are plenty of precursors for 0-2 teams rebounding into playoff contenders. Since 1990, 17 teams have started the season 0-2 and gone on to make the playoffs, or a little more than one a year. In other words, somebody is going to do it; will it be Baltimore or San Diego this year? Or perhaps Minnesota or Oakland? Or will the Packers once again rise in the North.
The Bucs are sure of only one thing: They're drawing a tough challenge this week. Linebacker Derrick Brooks doesn't expect Green Bay's record to have any negative effect on its effort.
"We're going to get their best game regardless, whether they're 2-0 or 0-2," said Brooks. "We feel like they're going to come out with their best shot, so we've got to be on our Ps and Qs, too. It's going to be a heck of a football game and we've got to find a way to come away with a win."