TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Cadillac driving away from sophomore slump
Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
LAKE BUENA VISTA - Carnell "Cadillac" Williams wants no part of the sophomore jinx. Not even the questions about it.
Williams listened intently before smiling and politely brushing aside the topic. The Buccaneers running back ran away with the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2005. He expects to be even better this year.
"Last year, coming in, I was unsure about a lot of things. I didn't know how much I was going to play, when I was going to play. ... I was trying to prove to the guys that I am a capable back," Williams said.
"I had a successful year and want to build on that coming into camp this year. It's just concentrating on football and getting better."
Williams rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie despite missing two games and part of a third because of a foot injury. He's the first back in NFL history to begin his career with three consecutive 100-yard games and arguably was the biggest reason the Bucs went 11-5 after going 5-11 the previous season.
Now, his role in the offense is expanding.
Coach Jon Gruden wants Williams to be more involved in the passing attack. The former Auburn star had 20 receptions for 81 yards as a rookie and relishes getting more opportunities to handle the ball in open space.
"I just want to showcase those skills," Williams said. "I definitely have them, but they haven't been used."
At 216 pounds, Williams reported to training camp about 6 pounds heavier than he finished last season.
He feels stronger and quicker. And, after a trip to Nike's headquarters in Oregon, he's wearing specially designed shoes he hopes will ward off the type of injury that slowed him for a portion of 2005.
In addition to throwing Williams more passes, Gruden figures one of the surest ways to increase the running back's production is to keep him in the lineup for 16 games.
"That's what the great backs in this league do. I think he understands that," Gruden said. "He had an unfortunate injury. We sent him out to the foot specialists to get the best shoes he can find."
The foot is healed, and Williams is excited about the prospect of a heavier workload.
Teammate, close friend and training camp roommate Michael Clayton sat down with him to discuss what to expect in Year 2.
Clayton had an outstanding rookie year in 2004 with 80 receptions for 1,193 yards and seven touchdowns. Lingering injuries limited him to 32 catches for 372 yards and no TDs in 14 games last season.
"Basically he told me just don't get complacent and relax. Don't bank on what you did last year. Stay humble," Williams said. "Thanks to him for telling me that. I'm going to consider it. But it's something I kind of already knew."
Clayton vows to help Williams stay focused. The third-year receiver likes what he's seen so far.
"He basically displayed everything he was last year. The guy put his heart on the line, his body on the line and was banged up. Mentally, you know he's strong. He's smart about what he does. He takes care of his body," Clayton said.
"He doesn't hide anything. He doesn't have to. It's even more impressive this year to see him work out in the offseason just like he did last year."
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