Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs' Blount, Williams two of a kind
TAMPA - Ask receiver Mike Williams who the NFL's offensive rookie of the year should be and he'll tell you running back LeGarrette Blount. Ask Blount who deserves the award and he'll tell you Williams. Maybe they're both right. Though Rams rookie quarterback Sam Bradford likely is the favorite, the Buccaneers' standout rookies are on pace to do something that hasn't been done since 1968, long before either was born. That was the most recent time players from the same team finished a season leading all rookies in rushing and receiving yards, and the two who did it back then weren't even in the NFL. At least not technically.When Paul Robinson and Bob Trumpy led all rookies in rushing and receiving yards, respectively, in '68, they played for the Cincinnati Bengals of the old American Football League. What Blount and Williams are on pace to do, then, is as rare a feat as the NFL has. What makes it even more remarkable is no one is even close to catching them in their respective races. With 941 rushing yards, Blount's closest competitor for the rookie rushing title is Saints back Chris Ivory, who has 683 yards and could miss this week's regular-season finale with a hamstring injury. Williams, meanwhile, leads his nearest competitor - Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley - by 338 yards. And Williams' list of rookie accomplishments might not end there. Even if Williams does not add to his total of 10 touchdown receptions, he'll be the first player since Randy Moss in 1998 to catch 10 or more in his first season. "Both of those guys are just exceptional,'' Bucs second-year quarterback Josh Freeman said. "You look at Mike, coming in as a fourth-round draft pick, and here he is, just shy of 1,000 yards and he's got 10 touchdowns already. "And LeGarrette, he hasn't even been playing the entire season for us and already he's breaking records and doing amazing things. Both of those guys, I'm just excited to be on their team.'' Williams, a Syracuse product, credits Freeman for helping him make the transition to the NFL. "He's made the game a lot slower for me,'' Williams said. "He's made my reads a lot easier, and he's made the passes easier for me to catch. With Josh, it's like all I have to do is go out there and play.'' Blount, undrafted out of Oregon, has leaped over would-be defenders such as Lawyer Milloy of the Seahawks and pounded his way for extra yards after contact. "I'm just happy that I was blessed with the opportunity to get some reps as a rookie,'' said Blount, who was released by the Titans before the Bucs picked him up at the start of the regular season. "A lot has happened this season with the injuries and stuff that gave me an opportunity to play. Leaving Tennessee also gave me an opportunity to play, so it's been a real roller-coaster ride.'' That roller coaster took another dip this week. When the Bucs failed to land a player on the NFC's Pro Bowl roster - Freeman, left tackle Donald Penn and tight end Kellen Winslow are alternates - the snub was an indication Blount and Williams might be passed over for the offensive rookie of the year award, which even Williams believes is going to Bradford. Williams came to the Bucs amid concerns about his character after being suspended twice and quitting the team at Syracuse. Claiming rookie of the year honors was not among his goals this season. "I said all along that I wanted to come here and prove what kind of guy I really am," Williams said. "I wanted to prove I'm a good guy off the field and a good player on it, and that's what I've done. I've let them know who the real Mike Williams is.'' Blount, who missed most of his senior season at Oregon because he punched a Boise State player after an altercation in the season opener, came to the Bucs amid similar concerns. His goal was similar to Williams. "I just wanted to let everyone know that I love the game. I'm not running angry or with a chip on my shoulder because I didn't get drafted,'' he said. "I just wanted an opportunity to show what I can do and, now that I've got it, I'm just trying to make the most of it.''
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