TAMPA — As frustrated as RB Cadillac Williams was after his second severe knee injury in as many years, he now is equally hopeful about participating in training camp and overcoming his torn patellar tendon.
Providing a rare update on his recovery Thursday, Williams said his rehab is well ahead of the pace of his comeback from a right knee injury in September 2007. He injured his left knee in last season's Dec. 28 finale, but Williams, who turns 27 on April 21, said he is running and doing some limited cutting just three months after the incident.
It took considerably longer to reach this point after the '07 injury, in Williams' estimation. "Seven, eight months," he said.
"It's a lot different," he added. "(Last) time, at three months, I was basically still on crutches."
The primary difference is the severity. This time, Williams' left patellar tendon detached from the bone. Such an injury is easier for doctors to repair. In 2007, his right patellar tendon ruptured.
Although the team has a solid running back duo in Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward, adding Williams would be welcome.
"I'm a big supporter of Cadillac," coach Raheem Morris said. "I remember sitting in the box (as an assistant) saying, 'Give the ball to the 'Lac.' I want to go back to those days."
Roll call: LT Donald Penn was the only player who didn't attend the voluntary minicamp without consulting the coaching staff, but his absence wasn't totally unexpected. Penn hasn't signed his one-year, $2.8 million restricted free agent contract tender and isn't under contract, though that doesn't prohibit him from taking part.
His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, has taken advantage of Penn's free agent status to continue dialogue with other clubs with the knowledge Penn likely will be an unrestricted free agent after next season. The sides kept talking about a long-term deal after Penn was tendered, a move that gave the Bucs the right to match competing offers and entitles them to first- and third-round draft pick compensation from a team wishing to sign Penn. Because there are no takers and with the Bucs and Penn deadlocked in their contract talks, Penn is expected to sign the tender before the April 17 deadline.
On Thursday, CB Ronde Barber and DE Stylez White were among those not in attendance. Morris said he'd spoken with most absentees and didn't appear bothered.
"You don't really have to excuse them, but they just come to me as a general courtesy," he said. "We had a great turnout."
Graham and QB Brian Griese did not attend this week for family reasons.
Next up: Players will do conditioning the rest of the month while the staff prepares for the draft April 25-26. The next on-field action comes in rookie minicamp May 1-3.
Stephen F. Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org