GLENDALE, Ariz. – In the latest indication that running back Ryan Williams’ time with the Cardinals could be over, coach Bruce Arians said Monday that Williams isn’t ready to resume practice and probably won’t play Saturday against the Chargers in the team’s third preseason game.
Williams is still nursing a right knee injury (the same knee in which he suffered a torn patellar tendon his rookie season) and hasn’t played yet this preseason.
“I can’t evaluate him unless you play,” Arians said. “You can’t get these reps back. He had an excellent OTAs, he started out with an excellent camp. He was cutting, running, and then (we) put the brakes on.”
When asked how much more time he was willing to give Williams, with just one preseason game remaining after this week and the team’s first cuts coming this week, Arians shrugged.
“That will pretty much be a decision by all of us,” he said. “We only have one game left after this. He could play a bunch in that one if he’s ready to go.”
Arians wouldn’t speculate on whether Williams’ injury is more mental than physical.
“He’s the only one who can answer that,” Arians said.
Williams said he has been experiencing sharp pains throughout the knee, but specifically below the kneecap. He has been relegated to riding a stationary bike and running outdoors. When asked if he thought the staff was frustrated, he said:
“I’m pretty sure they are because I’m frustrated. It’s not to the point where they’re mad at me; probably just more mad at the situation like I am because I went through the whole spring and OTAs and minicamp with none of this happening.”
Williams said he still hopes to play this weekend and is not nervous about the possibility of being cut if he can’t, adding “whatever’s going to happen is going to happen.”
The Cardinals drafted backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington this year, and both have shown potential in camp, although Ellington’s pass protection is a work in progress in an offense where that skill is vital.
With both of those players in the fold and a growing injury history hampering him, Williams’ odds of making the roster seem long. It’s possible this ordeal could come down to an injury settlement; a stunning turn of events for a back drafted just two years ago, who appeared to have so much game-breaking potential.
If Williams can’t play this week, that would leave just one short week and one game for the Cardinals to evaluate him, since the final preseason game is on a Thursday.
“I would have to make a lot of big plays to erase the time that I’ve missed,” Williams said.
The Cardinals are required to reduce their roster to 75 players after they play the Chargers on Saturday. They released guard Scott Wedige, center Kyle Quinn and kicker/punter Will Batson on Monday, bringing the roster to 87.
Arians has been a part of this process many times but never as a head coach, which he said is different.
“It’s sometimes harder as a position coach because of your daily interaction with these guys from March to now,” he said. “But you normally cut the guys that you like coaching. They’re overachievers. They do everything you ask of them. They’re just not quite good enough. That’s the hardest part, because sometimes it’s a dream coming to an end.”
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald was miffed at himself for missing a hot read in Saturday’s game against the Cowboys, and he’s made it known many times that he is not immune to tongue-lashings from Arians when he messes up. But Arians isn’t exactly concerned about his star receiver’s performance.
“He’ s doing great,” he said. “He just needs to speed up what he does. He did the right thing, he just didn’t do it fast enough. Carson didn’t see him, so he just threw it to Michael (Floyd).”
Arians said he wants right guard Daryn Colledge to get some snaps at center against the Chargers. It’s common for interior linemen to learn all three positions, as they might be called in an injury situation since teams sometimes dress only seven linemen for games.
Colledge said he has never played center in a game and doesn’t anticipate doing it this year, because he doesn’t see starter Lyle Sendlein coming out of a game.
“We’d probably have to cut his leg off before he’s going to come out of a game this year,” Colledge said. “It’s one of those things where I’m more of a utility guy.”
Colledge missed time in camp with what he said Monday was a hairline fracture in his leg that also caused nerve issues. “A lesser man would have quit football,” Colledge quipped.
The Cardinals took a cautious approach with working him back into the lineup, but he appears to have quieted any talk about losing his job to upstart Paul Fanaika, an Arizona State product. Arians noted that Fanaika didn’t play as well against the Cowboys as he had during the previous game.
The Cards didn’t have a walk-through Monday morning, but Arians said about five players were ready return to practice on a limited basis Monday afternoon, including cornerback Javier Arenas (finger). The others were NT Dan Williams, LB Karlos Dansby, TE Kory Sperry and DT Ricky Lumpkin. Arians expects all of those players to play Saturday.
Of the players still out, Arians said TE Jeff King (knee) has a chance to play in the game. WR Jarrett Dillard (concussion) is still out.