Rapid Reaction: Buccaneers 19, Vikings 13

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
4:06
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Cadillac Williams didn't play a down Sunday, but I've got a hunch that the running back suddenly is going to be in "football shape."

He has to be.

It's looking like the Bucs may not have much choice other than to move up the timetable on Williams' return from a major knee injury last year. Earnest Graham, who carried so much of the load in the first half of the season, appears to be wearing out. Graham, who already was dealing with a knee injury, went out with an ankle injury after one series against the Vikings and didn't return.

Graham might not return any time soon and the Bucs are in the middle of a tight NFC South race. There aren't many other options. Veteran Warrick Dunn still can give the Bucs some carries here and there, but you don't want him as the featured back. Undrafted free agent Clifton Smith is a promising player, but not yet the kind of guy who you want having the season in his hands.

More than ever -- and sooner than they really wanted -- the Bucs have to turn to Williams. Maybe it's a gradual start because the Bucs play at Detroit next week and can probably get through the Lions without much difficulty. But they've got a division game with the Saints the following week and a December stretch drive after that.

Ready or not, Williams is going to have a chance to play a big role.

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