Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Derrick Ward looks to show 2009 was an aberration

TAMPA — Derrick Ward rolled into training camp last week sitting behind the wheel of a slick, new black Lamborghini.

A message? No, he wasn't trying to make the Bucs ditch Cadillac.

That's impossible as Ward discovered last season.

But to be honest, Ward says, when he left the Giants for a four-year, $17 million contract, he was under the impression the Bucs planned for him to be their feature back; especially because their favorite mode of transportation, Cadillac Williams, was still recovering from his second torn patellar tendon in as many years.

"But things happened throughout the course of the offseason," Ward said. "I never knew what a patellar tendon was. I didn't know the significance of it.

"But I knew he had been through a lot of injuries throughout his career. For him to come back off those two injuries, I give him kudos for that."

In 2008, Ward rushed for 1,025 yards and two touchdowns while gaining 5.6 yards per carry. In his debut with the Bucs, a 34-21 home loss to the Cowboys, Ward played as advertised. Splitting time with Williams, he carried 12 times for 62 yards (5.2-yard average) and a touchdown and caught two passes for 21 yards.

But three quarterbacks in eight games, the firing of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski 10 days before the season opener and a swiss cheese defense conspired to make Ward one of the more unproductive free agent purchases in club history.

The Bucs quickly scrapped the Giants-like 2-2-1 blueprint (two backs get two series each then one gets one) among Ward, Williams and Earnest Graham and went primarily with Williams.

Williams led the team with 823 yards and four touchdowns. He had nearly twice as many carries as Ward (211 to 114), who finished with 409 yards and that lone touchdown. Ward's 3.6-yard average was the second lowest of his career, and he surpassed 60 yards only once after the opener (67 in Week 15).

"You can't have the numbers I had in New York playing from 21 (points) down," Ward said. "We're last in run defense, and teams are running the ball. So I can't get on the field to do the things I did in New York. People last year thought I was a bust. But I just put it to the back of my mind. I know football, and everybody on my team knows football."

Ward is right. In six of their first seven games, the Bucs trailed by 14 or points in the third quarter, forcing them to pass often.

Starting over with a new team at age 28 wasn't easy for Ward, either. He knew only one player: fullback B.J. Askew, who had spent time with the Jets.

Teams have little cliques, and new players — even productive veterans — have to, in essence, start over to earn their way in.

"It's a process. You don't really know anybody. They've had this team for a couple years now, and I was the new guy on the block," Ward said. "I had to get accustomed to the way they ran the organization and the way things were in the locker room.

"It's a young team. I came from a team where you had Michael Strahan and Amani Toomer and Tiki Barber, Plaxico Burress and all those guys. I went from a veteran team to where I'm one of the oldest guys on the team. It was a big deal, but we've had a year under our belt, and I'm excited. I've never been so excited for a season to come."

Talk to Ward, and it's immediately evident he is more relaxed.

"I'm happier," he said.

One reason is the Bucs have scrapped much of the zone blocking scheme and returned to a power game. And coach Raheem Morris has promised to "go with the hot back."

"We're going to formulate an immaculate tandem this year," Ward said.

Still, the Bucs love to ride Cadillac, and Morris admits Williams has "more equity in my emotional bank account."

"I've got to make some deposits," Ward said. "But I've got a little saved up."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Derrick Ward looks to show 2009 was an aberration 08/05/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 10:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  2. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  3. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  4. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …

  5. Fennelly: About time Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    It's Andy's time.

    And it's about time.

    Former Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had been eligible since 2009, a ridiculously long wait for someone who scored 640 goals, including a record 274 on the power play.

    LEFT: Dave Andreychuk talks at the podium as he is honored with a statue in front of the now-Amalie Arena.