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NAME THOSE RUNNING BACKS

Earnest Graham, Derrick Ward and Cadillac Williams have flashy stats but no flashy title - yet.

Running back Derrick Ward wasted no time creating a name for the Bucs' crowded backfield.

He's just not in a rush to reveal it.

"We've got to put up a couple more good games before I release it," Ward said.

You might remember Ward last season was a member of the Giants' prolific backfield with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw that he named Earth, Wind and Fire.

Now he's part of the running back-by-committee co-chaired by Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham.

The Three Buccaneers?

Sunday, they had a splashy debut, combining to rush 31 times for 174 yards (5.6-yard average) and two touchdowns in a 34-21 loss to Dallas. Williams, coming off major knee surgery in each of the past two years, led with 13 carries for 97 yards (7.5 average) and a touchdown. Ward rushed 12 times for 62 yards (5.2 average) and a score.

Graham had just one carry for 1 yard, but that says more about what is right about the Bucs' two-time rushing leader than what was wrong with the play distribution.

Coach Raheem Morris wants to go with a 2-2-1 plan: two series for the first backs in the game and one series for the third. (Kick returner Clifton Smith also could pitch in.)

Graham's turn came in the second half, but he told Morris to play Williams because he was hot. After two series, he had 77 yards, including a 35-yarder to set up the first score.

"It was about that time for Caddy to get back in and spark the offense in the second half," Graham said. "It wasn't that tough.

"It was just a decision that needed to be made, and I was contributing in my own way. I understand it's a long season. I understand I'll get my carries."

Cadillac Coupe de Thrill?

Ward was blown away.

"Earnest was the guy the past few years, and he's my team MVP already," Ward said of the former Florida standout. "I've never been around a player like that who's willing to sacrifice his playing time for the good of the team."

Graham, who saw time at fullback and kickoff returner, believes Ward and Williams would do the same for him.

"I think our competitiveness is more about us having a standard of when we do play; how we play on the field as opposed to like, 'He has my ball. I want it back,'" Graham said. "And I truthfully do enjoy Cadillac being back and seeing him out there running, the way he kind of lights up this team."

If Ward is looking to keep the '70s rock band theme, perhaps he should consider Journey.

The unselfishness in the running backs meeting room stems from the players' career paths. Graham, 29, and Smith, 24, weren't drafted and cut by their teams. Ward, 29, was a seventh-round pick who didn't hit it big until his fifth season, when he teamed with Jacobs on the Giants to become only the fifth pair of teammates to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

"If you look at (the Bucs running backs), some of those were guys that didn't get drafted, came in the hard way, getting cut, those kinds of things," Williams, 27, said. "I was a guy who was the high draft pick, came in and was the rookie of the year but had to fight back because of injury. It all balances (out).

"We've all been in high points of our career. We've been at low points in our careers. So at this time, we want to help one another, keep each other healthy and have a successful season."

Cadillac Roadsters?

Williams was 2004's fifth overall pick and offensive rookie of the year. But nobody can match his resiliency, coming back from two torn patellar tendons.

"I was amazed that he was even out there," Ward said. "Then to see him run, it was like his rookie year. He had that smile on his face.

"I don't think I could do it. I don't think I could come back from one of those surgeries. I take my hat off to him."

Morris hopes the unselfishness of his running backs spreads throughout the team.

"If I could just go copy that running back room and just put it throughout my team and change the body types, I would," he said.

In the meantime, the Bucs backfield will go nameless for a little longer.

"How about the Original Earth, Wind and Fire?" Williams said.

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