tampabay.com

Keep it simple: Give Cadillac carries

By RICK STROUD
Published October 29, 2006


NEW YORK - They can change the quarterback, the offensive linemen or any member of the struggling defense. It doesn't matter.

The best way for the Bucs to win remains the same.

Give the ball to Cadillac Williams.

The rookie of the year was the difference-maker in the Bucs winning the NFC South last season.

Somehow, coach Jon Gruden seemed to forget that during the first three weeks.

Granted, Tampa Bay fell behind in losses to the Ravens, Falcons and Panthers, but none of those teams ran away and hid.

Williams, who was somewhat hampered by back spasms, managed to gain just 107 yards through the first three games, all losses.

But in the past three contests, including upsets of the Bengals and Eagles, Williams has rushed for 287 yards. His 38-yard run two weeks ago is the longest of the season.

"It felt like old times," Williams said.

But times are about to get a lot tougher for Williams unless rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is allowed to make more plays in the passing game. Last week against the Eagles, Williams was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on too many runs.

"The thing everybody's got to remember, three or four weeks ago, because of the situations of the game, he didn't have a lot of carries," running backs coach Art Valero said. "So he's still relatively fresh. It wasn't like a year ago where he was getting 30 carries a game the first few weeks. All of a sudden now, he had 11, 13, 15 carries a game. He really doesn't start feeling the game until he gets 13."

Williams continues to receive respect from defenses. The spotlight will be on Giants running back Tiki Barber, but the Bucs would like Williams to steal the show.

BYE BYE, B.K: Friday, while the Bucs prepared for today's game, cornerback Brian Kelly was boarding a plane to Los Angeles with his family.

Kelly, who was placed on injured reserve with degenerative turf toe, will see one of the nation's leading podiatrists at UCLA and said he is confident surgery will allow him to resume his career pain-free.

To say the Bucs were annoyed at Kelly is an understatement. They would have preferred he play through the injury. But Kelly saw where that got John Lynch.

Lynch played four games in 2003 with a neck injury. After surgery, the Bucs informed him he would fail their physical then released him.

Kelly, who has two years remaining on a contract he is unhappy with, believes there's a good chance the Bucs will release him at the end of the season. If healthy, he knows the cornerback market could fetch him a $10-million signing bonus.

QUOTABLE

"These Barbers, they'll let us know when they're ready to retire. (Ronde has) a lot of football left in him, I think. He's got a lot of confidence in where he's going in the future as a football player."

Jon Gruden on Tiki Barber's pending retirement influencing Ronde