Williams practices, likely be ready to face Vikings on Sunday
The Buccaneers announced Wednesday they have activated the running back to the 53-man roster. Williams had been on the physically unable to perform list and hadn't been able to play since tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee in September 2007.
"I feel good. But at the same time, like coach said, we want to be smart about the whole thing. But, personally, I feel good," Williams said.
To make room for Williams, the Bucs released veteran running back Michael Bennett and placed receiver Maurice Stovall on the injured reserve list. The team also activated receiver Brian Clark off the practice squad.
"We're trying to simulate as much real football activity as we can, and he's responding tremendously," coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday after Williams participated in his first practice since being activated from the physically unable to perform list.
Williams had started all 32 games he has played in during his career before going down in Week 4 of the 2007 season. He has 2,184 career rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 569 carries.
There had been some thought that Williams might sit out until the 2009 season, but his rehabilitation progressed faster than expected. Injuries to running backs Earnest Graham and Warrick Dunn also may have factored into the decision to activate Williams.
"I'm just really happy for him and crossing my fingers that we do the right thing and he gets a chance to carry the ball at some point soon," Gruden said.
Although Williams, out since tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee in September 2007, is not ready for a role as a featured back, he could get some playing time this week if all goes well in practice.
"I am totally leaving it to the coaches. I am just out here trying hard and contributing in any way possible to this team," Williams said. "How much I play is up to them."
And with Adrian Peterson, the NFL's leading rusher, coming to town this week, the defense needed someone to portray the young Vikings star in practice.
"His role today was to carry the ball 30 times. ... We're just trying to get him back," Gruden said. "We're doing the best we can. We've studied it. We've really done the right thing."
The coach added Williams, who participated in contact drills Monday and is confident the surgically repaired knee will hold up in game conditions, has been an inspiration for the entire team.
"When you get an injury of this magnitude, they're very much threatening to your career. ... It's a scary thing for a player in this league," Gruden said. "I think they've all witnessed what he's done, and they get a certain amount of pride in what he's accomplished and they are really pulling for him."
Pat Yasinskas covers the NFC South for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.