Buffalo Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes has a high regard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' rookie running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams. After all, they both played college football at Auburn.
But Spikes will put those feelings aside for about three hours on Sunday.
"I don't have a choice," he said. "It's what we have to do."
Spikes and his Bills defensive teammates see stopping Williams as a key to beating the Buccaneers. That won't be easy if last week is any indication.
Williams, the fifth overall pick in last April's draft, ran for 148 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown on his 27th and last carry, in the Bucs' 24-13 upset win at Minnesota.
It was the fifth-best debut for a rookie running back in NFL history and the highest rushing total in a game by a rookie since Billy Sims gained 153 yards for Detroit in 1979.
"I'm impressed with what he's done, especially over the preseason and then seeing what he's done last week," Spikes said. "It was a good showing by him. He's so quick and powerful, and he has the ability to keep his feet on contact once somebody hits him. Most players whenever you make contact they always seem to stop their feet. But he's a perfect example of somebody who never stops his feet and that's why he breaks a lot of tackles."
The 5-foot-11, 217-pound Williams runs extremely hard and possesses excellent breakaway speed. He also has the elusiveness to make defenders miss in the open field and great vision that allows him to find cutback lanes.
The Bucs' passing game will be more effective if Williams gets cranked up. That's why the Bills want to keep the Cadillac parked in the garage on Sunday.
"He's a back who can take it the distance as was evident in the last game" said middle linebacker London Fletcher. "So we have to tackle well and maintain gap responsibility and really get 11 guys to the football."
Wide receiver Eric Moulds and running back Shaud Williams returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday to rest sore ankles. Both are expected to play Sunday. Rookie wide out Roscoe Parrish ran routes during position drills, but is still wearing a cast on his surgically repaired right wrist and remains out indefinitely.
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Quarterback J.P. Losman and his family celebrated his first win as a starter with some champagne. One of his uncles toasted Losman's first career touchdown pass to offensive tackle Jason Peters.
"He said, 'Cheers to J.P. Losman's first touchdown pass to a lineman,' and everyone started laughing," Losman said. "It's funny how that works."
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Moulds is the only player left from the Bills' last visit to Tampa Bay in 2000.
Moulds doesn't have fond memories of that trip. The Bills out gained the Bucs, 433-188, held more than a 12-minute time-of-possession advantage, recorded seven sacks (four in the first quarter) and still lost, 31-17.
"The last time we were down there I remember we beat those guys in every aspect of the game," Moulds said. "But they beat us. They had a punt return for a touchdown and we had two turnovers, so that was the difference in the game."
The Bills were 7-4 going into that game, but the loss was the first of four straight defeats, which began their current five-year playoff drought. Moulds said the team can't have a repeat of that 2000 performance on Sunday.
"I told the guys that we have stress not turning the ball over, controlling the ball and being able to make plays when we have them," he said. "We need to build off what we did last week."
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It's London Fletcher Week on television. Fletcher, who was featured with his fellow Bills linebackers on a NFL Network show Thursday, will be spotlighted on "NFL Under the Helmet," a weekly half-hour magazine show that will be broadcast Saturday at noon on WUTV-Fox (Channel 29).
Fletcher will be featured in a segment called, "Back in the Day," where he takes the show to his hometown of Cleveland and shows off his old neighborhood and high school. Fletcher was a bigger star in basketball than football at St. Joseph High, winning two state championships as the starting point guard.