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Predecessor predicts great things for Cadillac
By RICK STROUD
Published November 20, 2005
There once was a Bucs running back who took the NFL by storm, rushing for 437 yards in his first six pro games. Then he hit the wall. Over the next six, he had 2.5 yards per carry.
Nope. Warrick Dunn.
Now for the good news. Dunn found his legs and a second wind, finishing with 978 yards rushing and 462 yards receiving.
For that performance he was named the 1997 NFL rookie of the year and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl.
So when the topic of Williams' slump is broached, Dunn can relate. In fact, the Falcons running back, who is third in the league with 896 yards, offers a reason for it.
"Well, obviously, he's already played a college season," Dunn said. "He's working on Year Two already. For him, he just has to take care of his body, definitely be patient and try not to force anything. Sometimes we get a little impatient. I was impatient sometimes, to where you know you can make this run or play but your legs are not with you. He just has to be patient, take care of himself, get his rest and it's just going to come back. When it comes back, he's just going to be dynamite."
No running back ever had a better pro start than Williams, who rushed for 434 yards in his first three games, prompting the Pro Football Hall of Fame to ask for his shoes and gloves. But in his past four games played, Williams has been held to 82 yards on 45 carries. He also lost a fumble in each of the past two games.
"Obviously, every player goes through it," Dunn, 30, said. "I don't care if you play running back, defensive back or defensive line. Everybody goes through that time where they hit a wall and they have to just keep fighting it. Cadillac just has to keep fighting it, and it's going to come back."
The sooner the better for the Bucs. Williams' left foot injury won't completely heal until next season, and he is slower to the hole and doesn't finish runs the way he used to. But Jon Gruden says he's waiting for Williams to have another breakout game.
"Yes. Yes I am," the Bucs coach said. "I'm going to wait patiently, too. It'll come. He'll be all right, he'll be just fine. He's the least of my concerns. He had good practices and I'm not going to say anything else, other than he's a great football player. He'll prove it, he'll prove it once again. Hopefully this Sunday."
HIGH PRAISE: For all the tough love Gruden has shown quarterback Chris Simms over the years, he has never accused the 25-year-old of being a slacker. Gruden said he has never been around a quarterback who spent as much time trying to get better.
"He's the hardest-working guy, arguably, at that position," Gruden said. "At least that I've been around. He's in here Monday, he's in here Tuesday, he's going to be in here late tonight. He loves it. That's one of the things we like about it most. He was solid (Wednesday). Paul Hackett did a nice job getting him ready yesterday and the day before for the challenge of Wednesday practice. I thought he responded pretty good. There's plenty of things he can clean up, he knows that."