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This Caddy Has Already Shown He Can Carry a Club

Even for the best of NFL players, it normally takes years to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Carnell “Cadillac” Williams got there in three weeks.

Well, his shoes got there, at least. Williams, the Tampa Bay rookie who made league history Sunday by opening his career with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games, shipped his chalk-scuffed black Nikes to Canton, Ohio, where they’ll be displayed in a section called Pro Football Today.

“We’re happy to have jerseys and footballs, but when it’s a rushing record, it seems like shoes are the appropriate place to start,” said Joe Horrigan, the hall’s vice president.

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If the first three weeks of the season have taught us anything, it’s that Cadillac gets places a lot quicker than most running backs. He leads the league with 434 yards rushing, a three-game rookie record. He said he likes the attention he’s getting, but his mom likes it even more.

“She calls me every hour to tell me, ‘They’re saying this on ESPN, they’re talking about this, they’re talking about that,’ ” he said. “She’s the one keeping up with all the clippings and really enjoying it.”

Oh, Coach Jon Gruden is having fun too. After slogging through the worst two-year Super Bowl hangover in league history, his Buccaneers are 3-0 heading into Sunday’s game against Detroit. And Williams, a guy who looks fresher in the fourth quarter than most backs do in the first, is a big reason for that. Gruden says he has never coached a better back, which makes Williams look like a steal at the No. 5 pick.

But it remains to be seen whether he can handle the workload the Buccaneers are piling on him. He carried 37 times against Green Bay on Sunday, bringing his three-game total to 88.

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Williams said he was a little sore after Sunday’s game. He recalled reaching the 40-carry mark twice at Auburn, and doesn’t expect any overwork problems. Neither does Gruden.

“We wouldn’t be putting him in these situations if we didn’t know he could do it,” the coach said. “It’s not a coincidence he’s playing his best football late in the game. So, as long as he can take it, we will continue to give him these opportunities. If the situation has us with the lead, we’re in the fourth quarter and the clock is our enemy, you are going to see more Cadillac Williams.”

And, at his current pace, Williams is on track for 469 carries, which would shatter the record of 410 set by Atlanta’s Jamal Anderson in 1998. Better make room for another pair of shoes in Canton.

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It isn’t often you hear an offensive player bemoaning the lack of a chance to face New England’s Rodney Harrison, but that’s the case this week.

Harrison, the Pro Bowl safety whose season came to a crashing end Sunday when he suffered torn knee ligaments at Pittsburgh, is a first-rate guy in addition to being one of the most instinctive, hardest-hitting players in football.

Sunday, he was due to face the Chargers, his old team, and at least one of his former teammates is really disappointed Harrison won’t be on the field.

“It’s very upsetting,” said running back LaDainian Tomlinson, his close friend and onetime San Diego neighbor. “I was looking forward to playing against Rodney and being out there with him again. I learned so much from the guy.... My heart goes out to him. It’s tough, man, it really is.”

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The number crunchers at STATS LLC point out that Denver’s offense is looking a lot more disciplined this season. So far, the Broncos have only five offensive penalties and have yet to be flagged for holding. Last season, the Broncos had more holding penalties than any other team.

That said, Denver has the league’s worst third-down-conversion percentage this season and has come away from five third-and-one plays with only two first downs.

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League history will be made Sunday when San Francisco and Arizona play in Mexico City. It’s the first regular-season game to be played outside the country. Already looking ahead to next season’s possibilities, the NFL is mulling the Buccaneers’ playing a regular-season game at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Makes sense. Ever since the Glazers launched their takeover of Manchester United in May, they have made millions of fans over there.

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After scoring a touchdown Sunday, Cincinnati receiver Chad Johnson put his hands on his hips and celebrated with his version of the Riverdance. He plans to try out something different the next time he scores.

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“The Riverdance will not be repeated,” he told reporters this week. “If I’m able to get in the end zone, it’ll have to be something special. Each celebration will get better and better. This is entertainment, so you can’t see a rerun. It’s like watching a soap opera. There’s never a rerun on a soap opera.”

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It’s a safe bet Seattle is rethinking its decision to release former UCLA punter Chris Kluwe in favor of Leo Araguz. Kluwe, a rookie now playing for Minnesota, leads the league with a 49.9-yard average. Araguz is tied for 23rd at 41.6 yards.

All of which points to one undeniable truth: The Seahawks are Kluwe-less.


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