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Williams steps up at key moments

Often overshadowed Bucs receiver has his fifth career punt return for a touchdown, this one 56 yards for a 10-0 lead.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 16, 2002

Often overshadowed Bucs receiver has his fifth career punt return for a touchdown, this one 56 yards for a 10-0 lead.

BALTIMORE -- Karl Williams seemingly is the guy always on the way out for the Bucs.

Then he takes it all the way.

Though Williams' role as receiver has diminished with the offseason additions of free agents Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius, he again showed his value on Sunday with a 56-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Ravens.

"I'm not the biggest guy, I'm not the fastest guy," said the 5-foot-10, 177-pound Williams, in his seventh year out of Texas A&M-Kingsville. "But I'm a guy who's going to get back there and set blocks up, and I think that's where I have the edge on other players who have the burning speed. I'm able to set blocks up. I study the returns. I know the guys up front. I know what they're thinking and we just put it all together come game time."

With the Bucs up 3-0 late in the first quarter, he and the special teams unit were indeed special. Not that Williams thought he would do much with Dave Zastudil's booming 49-yard punt.

Then reserve cornerback Corey Ivy, like Williams an undrafted free agent, sealed off an on-rushing Raven that Williams said allowed him to catch the ball cleanly.

"Karl did what he was supposed to do -- find the seam and go with it," Ivy said.

Williams received more help, notably from All-Pro cornerback Ronde Barber, to burst into the open with only Zastudil to beat.

"I've gotten tackled by the kicker too many times earlier in my career," he said. "If the kicker gets you, you never hear the end of it."

"We might have given Karl a team fine," Ivy said.

Zastudil never had a chance.

He dove for Williams legs and found sod. As coach Jon Gruden paced him down the sideline, Williams punctuated the play with a dive into the end zone.

"The fans got quiet so I knew there were no flags or anything," he said. "I turned around and it seemed like the entire team was coming to congratulate me. I wanted to get to the 10 guys and congratulate those guys; they're the ones that did all the hard work and made my job pretty easy."

It was his fifth career punt return for a touchdown and eighth in the team's history.

The Bucs are 5-0 when Williams proves his value.

"I finally got one early in the season; it's usually late in the season when I get one," he said. He had two in the regular-season finale (1996 and 1997), one in Week 12 and one in Week 8.

It was the third punt return for a touchdown the Ravens have allowed and first since Cincinnati's Craig Yeast's 86-yard return Nov. 21, 1999.

"It's so hard to score in this league, especially on special teams," Williams said.

"We've been working hard all through the offseason, trying to get a chemistry going on special teams. I think it's finally coming together."

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