Cadillac On A Tough Road With No Fast Lane
By Roy Cummings | Tribune StaffTAMPA - Lodged somewhere between the heaven that is playing every Sunday and the hell that is not knowing if you will suit up again is a purgatory known as injury rehab.
Published: August 31, 2008
Published: August 31, 2008
It is a dreadfully lonely place. Even on its best days, it is still just you and a trainer and a wide-open playing field void of teammates.
Cadillac Williams, the running back who came to the Bucs with so much promise four years ago, has been stuck there for almost a year now, and he just had another six weeks tacked onto his sentence.
Relegated last week to the Physically Unable to Perform list, Williams must now wait until the week of the Seattle game before learning if he will get to play this year.
It was a tough blow. Ever the optimist, Williams had personally set opening day 2008 for his return to action from the torn patellar tendon injury that still threatens to end his career.
As difficult as it might have been for Williams to accept, though, the sentence the Bucs handed down in this case was the right one. After all, this road back to heaven does not include a fast lane.
Football players who tear their patellar tendon, as Williams did in a Week 4 game last year against Carolina, seldom regain their form. None regain it quickly. Those who try usually get hurt again.
That's what happened to Correll Buckhalter. The Eagles running back was 26 when he tore his patellar tendon in 2004. When he tried coming back a year later he tore it again.
Buckhalter still plays. He just doesn't play very much. He gets about five carries per game. When and if he makes it back, Williams wants more than that. In order to get it, he has to be patient. Even then, it might not matter.
The patellar tendon is the tendon that holds the knee in place. If it tears, even after surgery a player's ability to not only run but jump and accelerate is greatly compromised.
That's what Williams is up against. Still, he trudges on. He has been nothing if not diligent in his rehab, working tirelessly in an effort to beat the odds that remain stacked against him.
Watch him on that rehab track and you get the feeling he will beat those odds. But who really knows? There's a big difference between running straight ahead and cutting instinctively through a maze of would-be tacklers.
Few, in fact, have come back to do that. Williams, at least, has a chance. If making the best of that chance means spending a little more time on that lonely rehab course, then his time in purgatory will have been well spent.
TACKLE TROUBLES: The Bucs have toyed with the idea of signing veteran left tackle Fred Miller but they have yet to pull the trigger. Maybe that's for the best. It's not like the Bucs have had a lot of success signing free-agent tackles.
When Luke Petitgout was let go two weeks ago, he joined a long list of free-agent tackles who have failed miserably in their attempt to play up to the contract they signed with Tampa Bay.
That list started with Derrick Deese and Todd Steussie, extended to Torin Tucker and even included Kenyatta Walker, who was re-signed as a free agent after being let go by the Bucs following the 2006 season.
The Bucs paid more than $8 million in signing bonus money alone to those five players, but only Deese played a full season for the Bucs after signing. That's not really getting your money's worth.
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: From the "We're Not Really Sure What This Means" department, we have two lists. One is Sports Illustrated's list of the NFL's top 50 players, compiled by Peter King. The other is The Sporting News' list of the NFL's top 101 players, compiled by Randy Cross. Neither includes a Buccaneer.
Don't take it as a sign of disrespect. SI picks the Bucs to win the NFC South with a 9-7 record this year. TSN isn't quite as optimistic. They have the Saints (11-5) winning the division and the Panthers (10-6) winning one of the wild-card berths.