tampabay.com

Gruden: If Cadillac's cleared, he'll play

By RICK STROUD
Published October 7, 2005


TAMPA - Cadillac Williams' foot injury is improving and he is expected to practice today.

But don't think the Bucs are entertaining any ideas of resting their rookie running back against the Jets on Sunday.

"He was limited a little bit. We expect to have him (today)," coach Jon Gruden said Thursday. "I think he's getting better. The soreness is making its way through his body.

"If he's okay to play, if he's cleared by our doctors and trainers, he'll play. If he isn't, he won't. I can't tell you we're going to take any precautionary measures. This isn't the preseason. These are regular-season games and we have got to win, we have to find ways to win and we need our best players to win games."

Williams, who is listed as questionable and did not practice Thursday, has spent the past three days wearing a protective boot and appears to be responding to treatment. He left Sunday's game against the Lions in the third quarter complaining of a sore left foot and hamstring after being limited to 13 yards on 11 carries.

"He wore the boot a little bit (Wednesday) and woke up this morning and it felt great," running backs coach Art Valero said. "So they said, "Hey, let's put him in the boot one more day. Let him take a good amount of reps tomorrow and see what we've got.

"If anybody told you you weren't going to be beat up, banged up and sore, they lied to you. It just comes with the territory. With a younger guy, they're not used to that."

Gruden groused at the notion that because the Bucs are 4-0, they have the luxury of sitting Williams.

"I don't give a damn what we are," Gruden said. " Donovan McNabb is questionable. They're talking about him having surgery. Michael Vick has injuries and he's questionable. No - if the guy's able to play, you play. We've got to win games.

"I've got a lot of concern with this game. But, Jiminy Christmas, there aren't a lot of guys in our locker room who feel good right now. That's just the way it is."

Williams isn't alone. Receiver Michael Clayton, who has a second-degree separation of his shoulder, was limited in practice Thursday but is listed as probable.

"He's been limited before," Gruden said of Clayton. "It's not like he wasn't limited the whole offseason and limited at times during camp while he was working himself back in. We've got plenty of alternatives we're working on, and Ike Hilliard will be a part of it, certainly. Edell Shepherd is a young guy who will get a chance, and we'll see what happens. But we expect Clayton to play and if he doesn't, then we'll have guys ready who are."

The player who isn't likely to play Sunday is strong safety Jermaine Phillips, who is questionable with a fractured thumb. Second-year pro Will Allen is expected to start in Phillips' place, and veteran Dexter Jackson will return to the lineup at free safety. Tackle Anthony Davis (shoulder bruise) is expected to start against the Jets.

REMEMBER ME?: Tight end Anthony Becht, the Jets' No. 1 pick five years ago, returns to New York to face his former team Sunday. Becht, who signed with the Bucs as a free agent, says he has no hard feelings.

"They had a direction to go that they felt was going to benefit their team," Becht said. "And I also had an objective where I wanted to go. You know it's a mutual leaving. I had a great five years there. It will be fun to go back and play."