The year was 2010 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the rise. Second-year quarterback Josh Freeman, the first round pick in 2009, was in the process of winning the Buccaneers back into playoff contention and getting their first 10-win season since 2005.
Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, a former top five pick himself, had suffered not one, but two knee injuries, yet had rebounded. And, he was part of a backfield that was helping Freeman and the offense succeed.
But, just a couple of short seasons later Freeman’s NFL career went down the tubes faster than you could spell “Greg Schiano.” And the injuries and father time caused Cadillac Williams to have happen to him what happens to many others: his legs and game hit the “age wall.” His career was over after 2011.
So where are the two of them now?
Coincidentally on Sunday, Tampa Bay Times Buccaneers beat writer Rick Stroud caught up with Freeman, who’s trying another career come back, after not having been in the NFL since 2015. This time with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
Whoa, Canada? Josh Freeman tries to resurrect once-promising career with the CFL’s Alouettes. Good time spent with Josh at a passing camp in Vero Beach last month. https://t.co/RsjpFJv2Oc
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) May 5, 2018
As we wrote earlier this off season, it went bad in Tampa Bay quickly, and as Stroud found out being with him in Vero Beach, Freeman is likely on his last hope to play his way back into the NFL.
Meanwhile, Cadillac Williams is also still attached to the game as a football coach at the IMG Academy in Bradenton working High School Stars chasing their college and eventually, NFL dreams.
I caught up with former Auburn star Cadillac Williams, who is now getting new perspective as the IMG running backs coach.
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) May 6, 2018
Both players know the feeling of having been taken in the first round of the NFL draft, just as 32 guys were taken a week and a half ago. Both players also know the taste of success in the NFL, including making huge money.
And, both also now know that it all eventually it comes to an end, and you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life.
In Freeman’s case, he’s younger (30) and clinging to hope of the last chance “North of the border.” Maybe it will work for him this summer in the CFL. Or maybe, the same seeming lack of fire, etc. that caused his NFL career to peter out, rears up, again. After all, Freeman bounced around in Dolphins camp (photo above) and was briefly signed for one game by the Colts in 2015.
And for Williams (36, now), who also went back to Auburn recently and got his degree, he’s setting the right example for up and coming players. And, he seems genuinely content to stay on the sidelines with a headset on Friday nights in the fall.
It’s not the roaring crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, but it’s still football for both.
Hall of Fame WR Randy mentoring Bucs QB Jameis Winston in Tampa
Controversy has followed Jameis Winston throughout his college and NFL careers and now, former controversial NFL star receiver turned ESPN analyst Randy Moss, is trying to help.
As you probably know by now, the Bucs QB is suspended for the first three games this season by the NFL for violation of the personal conduct policy after he inappropriately touched a female Uber driver in Arizona in 2016. It’s the latest in a long line of personal missteps and problems that have dogged Winston off the field, since his days at Florida State.
Meanwhile, Moss, who will be enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, later this month, has been in Tampa recently working with and apparently trying to help mentor Winston.
Tampa TV station, Fox 13 and reporter Kevin O’Donnell, got exclusive comments from Moss on helping Winston on Tuesday:
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) July 10, 2018
“He’s doing things right,” Moss told the station. “It’s a bump in the road…Man, just continue to fight. It happens…. What he did was wrong. You know. I’m not saying right or wrong. There was a woman involved. So, I’m not going to get into all of that. What he did was wrong. He know (sic) it was wrong. So, I think it’s up to him as a man to understand what he did wrong….to live and learn from it and let it go.”
Moss had early controversies and arrests in his own college career, as he was denied entry at Notre Dame and later kicked off the FSU football team while red-shirting for arrests and probation violations that led him to being back behind bars.
He later thrived at Marshall University, was a Heisman Trophy Finalist, a first round pick by the Vikings and had a 14 year career as one of the most explosive NFL receivers of all time. Moss, who caught for 1,000 or more yards in 10 NFL seasons and is second all time with 156 TD receptions, was voted into the Hall of Fame (above) in his first time on the ballot back in January.
Winston was shown by the station running sprints and making throws to some other prospective NFL receivers at the workout Tuesday, but refused to talk on camera. He has not spoken publicly, since the NFL suspended him two weeks ago. He told the station he will talk at Bucs training camp later in July.
As for Moss, he further said Tuesday that he’s trying to give Winston and other young players advice from his own experiences and failures off the field.
“One of the things that I always told my people: ‘Don’t be scared or shy to tell me no, because I check my pride in at the door….I’ll thank you later, you know, when I’m not behind bars, or when I’m still on a football team.” Moss continued, “A lot of these guys don’t realize that they’re being watched under a microscope and they don’t realize it until it happens to them and they’re out of job.”
At this point, the fourth year Bucs QB Winston, has to realize that he is on the verge of being out of a job in Tampa. That’s if he doesn’t respond well from the suspension by staying out of trouble and performing well on the field.
New Bucs DE Jason Pierre Paul still great reminder of July 4th safety
The Buccaneers are excited to see what former USF and New York Giants star Jason Pierre-Paul can do on the field in Tampa Bay this fall. After being acquired in a trade with the G-men in March, Pierre Paul hopes to energize an almost non-existent Bucs pass rush from last year.
One thing is for sure, as much as he’s known for being a star on the field, Pierre Paul has become a reminder of “what not to do” and specifically fireworks safety on July 4th.
It was three years ago Wednesday night that Pierre Paul’s decision to celebrate and ignite amateur hand-held fireworks in South Florida led to a horrific and potentially, career threatening right hand injury.
But, out of what could have been football tragedy involving his hand, Pierre-Paul has made a comeback and is now a national PSA symbol for firework safety.
The beginning of Pierre Paul’s football story is the Deerfield Beach, as a native of Hatian immigrant parents playing as a Juco star in both California and Kansas. Then, he was brought back to Florida, by coach Jim Leavitt and staff, as USF’s dominant pass rusher in 2009. That year he attained All Big East honors with 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss for the Bulls.
This fast tracked Pierre Paul to the NFL after only one season in Tampa and he was drafted 15th overall by the Giants in the 2010 NFL Draft.
After a rookie year with 4.5 sacks, he burst on the pro scene in season two with 16.5 sacks for the G-men leading to a Pro Bowl selection and was part of the New York Superbowl victory over the Patriots that February.
Pierre-Paul continued to be regarded as the Giants most consistent pass rushing threat and had another double digit sack season with 12.5 in 2014.
Then came the off season of 2015, where he chose not to sign his one year Franchise Player free agent tender (the Giants still had his exclusive rights) seeking a longer term deal. And, he remained unsigned as of July 4th that year.
That night in 2015 he loaded up a van with handheld amateur fireworks and with friends and neighbors began shooting them off until one obviously malfunctioned and mangled his right hand. Pierre-Paul was hospitalized and eventually had multiple surgeries on the hand and his right index finger amputated.
The Giants stood by him, when they could have dumped him for non-football injury, and he eventually made his way back onto the field in November of 2015. Signing a “pro rated” week to week one year deal, his debut came as New York traveled to Raymond James Stadium (Pierre-Paul’s USF home for a season) and he played with a padded “club” protecting his right hand against the Bucs.
He would play in eight total games that season with one sack and then, as further proof of the Giants being in his corner, they re-signed him on a one year $10 million deal for 2016. Pierre-Paul then worked a year ago with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on a July 4th fireworks safety video:
The gnarly image and video of Pierre-Pauls right hand is obviously the deterrent the agency is looking for with the PSA campaign about safety. He played 2016 with a special padded glove to protect the hand/fingers registering another seven sacks before being placed on I.R. with a sports hernia.
Finally, and happiest of all financial endings after the fireworks disaster, Pierre-Paul inked a four year $62 million deal with $40 million guaranteed in March of last year to stay, so he thought, in New York.
So, while it all worked out in the end, obviously, the Jason Pierre-Paul July 4th fireworks mess could have had a much different ending all the way around for he, the Giants and now, the Bucs.
It’s a reminder to stay safe Wednesday night. Leave the handheld fireworks to someone else.
What are Buccaneers options with QB Jameis Winston?
It’s been a tumultuous past few days for the Buccaneers organization, as they now know that they will be without QB Jameis Winston for the first three games of the year for his NFL suspension.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what the franchise will do in the short and long term.
Here are their options:
Cut Winston now
If the Glazers, who own the team, choose to make a statement to their organization, the fans and the NFL in general, one would think it will come quickly.
First, the financial hit is not that significant, as Winston is scheduled to make $3.8 million in actual salary and the “dead cap” hit from the remainder of his signing bonus being applied is $4.9 million.
So, it’s not as if there are large ramifications ($10-15 million) for his release.
If you are wondering if the Glazers have done something like this before? The answer is yes.
In 2013, they allowed coach Greg Schiano to not only bench but outright release QB Josh Freeman during the season, while they still owed him $6 million guaranteed for remainder of the season.
Allow Winston to come back to play after the suspension
This is most likely the short term plan. Yes, Winston will be a distraction during training camp and the preseason, but ultimately the Bucs best chance to win 7, 8 or more games is with Winston at the controls.
And if the Glazers have to pay Winston the actual $3.8 million in salary, the strong argument is have him “play for it” or earn the money.
The risk is that the Bucs could be on the hook for the fifth year guarantee of his rookie contract. If Winston were to be injured, and unable to pass a physical in March, the Bucs would have no choice, because his $20.9 million option year would then be guaranteed.
Release Winston after the season before the March deadline to guarantee his 2019 salary
This scenario also makes sense for the owners, especially if Winston plays poorly after the suspension. At that point, no one would fault them for not wanting to guarantee the almost $21 million for 2019.
Further, if they have decided now, that they won’t be paying Winston a mega deal in the future, then he’s living on “borrowed time” for 2018. To that end, if the Bucs season is bad and Winston is not playing well, there very easily could bench him to avoid the injury guaranteeing his deal (the Redskins did this with RGIII a couple of years ago).
Play Winston-he succeeds, puts the past behind him and gets long term deal later
This is obviously the biggest “long shot” of all the scenarios, but it’s still possible that Winston could play well, or even exceptionally well. And if he’s not injured, then the Bucs could take the almost $21 million risk for 2019 and work towards a long term deal.
Again, the Glazers with GM Jason Licht have short and long term options.
And, if they are deleting Winston, you have to think that happens, shortly.
Otherwise, it’s one of the other options above.
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