WR Karl Williams was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after carving up Buffalo's coverage units
By now, Karl Williams should know the routine.
Twice previously in his five-year NFL career, Williams has returned a punt for a touchdown for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On both of those occasions, Williams received the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award the following Wednesday.
So it probably came as no surprise to the man they call 'The Truth' when that same honor was bestowed upon Wednesday morning. Three days earlier, Williams had provided the single most crucial play in Tampa Bay's critical win over Buffalo, returning a fourth-quarter punt 73 yards for a touchdown.
Williams has actually been tabbed as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week four times, having also won the award in Week 10 of 1997 after a productive day at Indianapolis that did not include a punt-return touchdown. Williams set up two TDs in the Bucs' come-from-behind 31-28 win over the Colts on November 2, 1997 with long punt returns, including a 63-yarder. While it didn't factor directly into the award, he also caught two touchdown passes in that contest.
But it has been the touchdowns that have defined his career and drawn the most prominent league attention. On December 22, 1996, Williams contributed to a 34-19 blowout of Chicago by returning a punt 88 yards for a touchdown, then the longest runback in team history and only the second one to reach the end zone. A year later, almost to the day on December 21, 1997, Williams did it to Chicago again during a 31-15 Buccaneer win. This one was a 61-yarder, but it was probably the most thrilling return of his career, involving a cutback, several spin moves and a stumble when the punter nearly took him down.
In addition to winning player of the week honors after each of those games, Williams was tabbed Special Teams Player of the Month in December of 1996. Though he didn't take over the punt and kickoff return duties until November, Williams finished with team single-season records in both categories, averaging 21.1 yards per punt return and 27.4 yards per kickoff return. He owns three of the six punt return touchdowns in Buccaneer annals and is the team's all-time leader with a 12.2-yard average.
Williams' current award actually honors all of his achievements on Sunday against the Bills, not just the one touchdown. In a game in which the Bucs were outgained in total yardage by a more than 2-1 margin (433-180), excellent field position provided by Tampa Bay's special teams was one of the deciding factors. The Bucs started six of their 13 drives on their own 44-yard line or better, and that doesn't take into account Williams' touchdown return.
For the day, Williams had 95 yards on three punt returns plus a 35-yard kickoff runback. After Tampa Bay had netted a field goal on its opening drive of the game and then forced Buffalo's offense into a three-and-out, Williams put his team right back in scoring territory with a 19-yard punt return to the Bills' 47-yard line.
The Bucs didn't score off that field position, unfortunately, but they did after Williams' 35-yard kickoff return to the Bucs' 44 to start the game.
Player of the Week Awards have become fairly commonplace for the Buccaneers, as this is the fifth one given to a Tampa Bay player in 2000. LB Derrick Brooks, CB Ronde Barber and DT Warren Sapp pulled off a remarkable trifecta by winning the first three NFC Defensive Player of the Week awards of the season (in that order), and QB Shaun King was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after the Bucs beat Minnesota, 41-13, on October 29. In addition, K Martin Gramatica was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October.
The most Player of the Week awards the Buccaneers have won during a single regular season was six, set just last year. They also took five such awards in 1997.