Derrick Ward circled this Sunday’s game against the Giants on his calendar when the schedule first came out in April. That was before head coach Raheem Morris decided to go with a three-back attack.
Now, with Cadillac Williams and Earnest Graham both listed as questionable, Ward will get the start against his former team.
“I told the team at the beginning of the week that we were going to start Derrick,” said Morris. “Derrick’s going to get the first crack at his old boys.”
Ward, along with former teammate Brandon Jacobs, rushed for over 1,000 yards last season. However, with Ward, Jacobs and third-stringer Ahmad Bradshaw crowding the Giants’ backfield, Ward decided to test the free agent market, eventually signing with the Buccaneers. Jacobs said it will be “surreal” being on the opposite sideline as his former backfield mate.
“I love him,” Jacobs told Jenny Vrentas of The Star Ledger, “but he’s a Buc now.”
Former team or not, Ward says it’s still business as usual.
“I’m excited, but I’m trying to treat it like any other game,” Ward told Jim Flynn of The Pewter Report. “Of course there’s a little more emphasis on it since I’m facing some of my former teammates and coaches. It will be fun to play against those guys. I’m a Buc now.”
Ward made an immediate impact when he arrived at One Buc Place. As a part of the three-headed monster in the Bucs’ backfield, Ward is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has one of the team’s two rushing touchdowns through two games. He looks to improve those numbers against a Giants defense that has allowed 168 yards per game and 6.72 yards per carry this season.
The Giants’ defense is banged-up as well, with defensive end Justin Tuck listed as questionable with a shoulder injury and safety Kenny Phillips out for the season. Defensive tackle Chris Canty and cornerback Aaron Ross will also miss Sunday’s game due to injury. However, the defense will still be full of familiar faces for Ward.
“It’s going to be strange going up against those guys,” Ward told Flynn, “but it’s football and guys switch teams every year. I’m happy to be here, and I’ll be even happier to get this first win out of the way.”
The Bucs still hope all three backs will be available on Sunday, but wouldn’t mind seeing Ward run wild against the Giants.
“Ward might get a full dose of his former teammates,” said Morris. “We’ll just have to go see.”