RB Cadillac Williams practiced sparingly over the last two weeks but returned to more extensive work on Wednesday
Cadillac Williams practiced for the first time in over a week on Wednesday, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie running back was pleased with the way his injured left foot responded. Still, there was still a little something missing, and that's why Williams remains a question mark for the second week in a row.
"Today's Wednesday; it's still early," he said after a two-hour afternoon workout. "I still don't have that little bit of 'juice' in me. But I feel like I made progress today."
Williams debuted as "questionable" on the team's official injury report on Wednesday, which represented a bit less optimism than the team expressed on Monday. Head Coach Jon Gruden had estimated the rookie would be "probable" during his Monday press conference, but no official injury reports are released until Wednesday. Gruden said he got a little bit ahead of himself with that estimation – it was a bit of "wishful thinking," he said – but the underlying notion that Williams is better this week than he was last week seems quite accurate, especially after his encouraging day on the practice field.
"It's getting better," said Williams. "Actually, I got a lot of work done today. I came out and practiced, ran around on it, so it feels pretty good. There's still a little discomfort, but it's football. You're not going to go into every game feeling healthy. I definitely understand that. But overall, it actually did a lot better than I thought it was going to do today."
After being limited to 11 carries in about a half of play against Detroit on October 2, Williams was held out of last Sunday's game in New York, the team's first loss of the season. This was not a precautionary move by the team, a preemptive scheduling of rest; simply, Williams was not cleared to play against the Jets. Similarly, even with the bye looming and the possibility of four consecutive weeks of rest for Williams if he sat out against the Dolphins, the only criteria for whether or not he suits up will be whether or not he is cleared to suit up.
"We're going to do what the trainer says," said Gruden. "He's getting better, he really is. I realize we have a bye coming up; he's not the only guy who could use a couple days to mend. But that's beside the point. He's getting better, there's a chance he could play, we need him to play, and if he can't play, by God, we'll play the guys who can go.
"Carnell Williams is that kind of kid. This kills him not to play, now. If there's any way he can play, I'm convinced he would go.
It wasn't a perfect day on the practice field Wednesday, or Williams might would have been upgraded to probable. He hasn't yet regained the full range of moves he had before first spraining the foot against Buffalo in Week Two. He's getting much closer to being fully back, though.
"In my mind, the flexibility down there is not back," said Williams. "That kind of makes me run on my heels, but once I continue to rehab, continue to get with [Head Trainer] Todd [Toriscelli], continue to do the stuff to improve it, it should get better."
So will he play? That question will probably not be answered until later in the week, if not game day. When asked on Wednesday if he thought he would be in the lineup, Williams paused for a moment before answering.
"Realistically, I think there's a pretty good chance," he said. "I came out and had a pretty good day today. I'll come out tomorrow and see how it feels after a workload like this. We're just going to take this thing day by day.
"Tomorrow's a pretty big day. I kind of worked out hard today and I'll come in tomorrow and see how it feels. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
As the Bucs prepare for the Dolphins this week, wide receiver Michael Clayton is beginning work on a new streak. Last Sunday in New York, for the first time in his professional career, Clayton finished a game without a reception, bringing a run of 20 games with a catch to an end.
Considering he had 80 receptions as a rookie in 2004 and is currently on pace for 55 this year, and considering he plays what many consider the "prima donna position" in the NFL, you might expect some screaming and posturing from Clayton this week. At least some pouting.
Sorry, that's not Michael Clayton.
While insisting that, yes, he wants to be more involved in the offense, and that his pride in blocking only takes him so far, Clayton refused to point any fingers or act neglected on Wednesday. He simply vowed to work harder and to do what he could on his end to be more productive.
"As a competitor, you're never satisfied," said Clayton. "Obviously, as an offense it's not always easy to get me the ball, and I understand that. I just do everything that I can to assist the guys on this team – blocking whatever it may be – to get the victory at the end of the night."
Clayton stated flatly that neither his shoulder injury nor any other lingering aches are keeping him from getting open. He's pleased that the team is winning but he says he has yet to finish a game this season that has satisfied him
"I haven't shown up as a player yet this season," he said. "Not once. I'm striving just to be the best I can be, waiting on the opportunity to do what I can do to help this ballclub on offense You can't be satisfied with what I've done this year, but I know that it can get better."
The Bucs' passing attack has still thrived at times, though fellow starter Joey Galloway has usually been on the receiving end of the big plays. Galloway has half of the team's receiving touchdowns, is averaging 18.3 yards per catch, is one of the NFL's leaders in third-down receptions and is on pace for a 1,300-yard season. Clayton bears absolutely no jealousy toward the connection Brian Griese has established with Galloway, and he considers it part of his role to help Galloway make big plays.
"Now, Joey Galloway is something special, and if I'm not doing anything to help him get open then I don't really feel like I'm doing my job," said Clayton. "When you have a guy like that, you tend to look that way. And that's obvious, and that's acceptable also because they're successful in doing that.
"But I can get more separation. There are some times when I can help Brian out in times like that. But you just have to be patient. You never know when it's going to come to you. You don't ever expect the ball not to come to you. You just do what you can and when it does come you have to make the best of it."