TEMPE, Ariz. – Ryan Williams isn’t changing much this week as he prepares to become the featured back in the Cardinals offense when they host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“Hydrate more, do a little bit more cardio,” Williams said. “Oh yeah, and I’m doing some Epsom salt baths.”
The latter could help reduce the swelling and pain from the added hits Williams is likely to endure over the next seven games now that starting running back Beanie Wells has been placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list with severe turf toe that will sideline him at least until Nov. 25.
After spending an emotional 2011 season rehabbing a season-ending knee injury and after spending a few emotional moments on the sideline two weeks ago in Foxborough, Mass., when his late fumble threatened a 20-18 victory over the Patriots, Williams will finally realize the goal he’s been chasing since the Cardinals selected him in the second round of the 2011 draft.
Which, of course, made him emotional on Wednesday.
“Ryan’s emotional all of the time,” coach Ken Whisenhunt cracked at his Monday news conference after a win over Philadelphia. “But that’s good, because he’s a passionate man.”
Whisenhunt cautioned against expecting too much from Williams so soon.
“The one thing we can’t forget is this (the Eagles game) is really Ryan’s third game,” Whisenhunt said Monday. “He’s really a rookie.”
But Williams isn’t approaching this week in that manner.
“There’s no pressure,” he said. “It’s what I’ve been wanting to do for the longest — and that’s play a lot of football. I’m getting the opportunity, so I have to do something with it.”
The excitement surrounding Williams has been palpable since training camp in 2011, when he showed flashes of big-play ability. But the preseason knee injury and the Cardinals’ inability to run the ball effectively in the first two weeks of this season kept a lid on that excitement.
Then, with Wells sidelined for most of the second half on Sunday against the Eagles, Williams carried the ball seven times for 62 yards in the fourth quarter to help the Cardinals eat up time while protecting a lead.
After one long run, Williams returned to the huddle and receiver Early Doucet said: “See, when you do good, nobody remembers what you did last week.”
Williams acknowledged the fourth quarter helped him regain his confidence and put the New England fumble behind him, but there was also a psychological hurdle that might have been crossed that day.
“The first two weeks, I’d get hit and it was just like, ‘How is my knee going to act?’” he said. “If I got hit in my right leg, it was like: ‘Oh, hurry up and get down because if some other people come, your knee might twist awkwardly.’”
Against the Eagles, Williams ran more with instinct and reaction.
With an expanded role – he estimates he’ll carry the ball five to 10 more times and maybe be in on 15 to 20 more plays – there will be added responsibilities. He could also be the wildcat back if LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) can’t go on Sunday.
“He’s just got to make sure he puts in that extra time with all the different looks and different protections that we’ll throw him into,” quarterback Kevin Kolb said.
After the New England game, Kolb said he sat down with Williams to help him forget about the fumble and to help him control his emotions.
“I know how he feels,” Kolb said, drawing laughter.
“It’s a good quality to have,” Kolb added of Williams’ emotional approach, “but it can also hurt you. I wanted to let him know that we’ve all been in situations like that.
“The real pros find a way to get themselves out of it, and he did it. That’s already a step in the right direction.”