Arizona’s dynamic Williams makes cautious return

Ryan Williams stood and watched as his Arizona Cardinals

teammates practiced in the spitting rain on Tuesday.

The wet turf and some soreness in his surgically repaired right

knee led to the decision to keep him out of the workout. It is part

of the cautious approach Williams and the team are taking 11 months

after he ruptured his patella tendon in a preseason game, an injury

that wiped out his rookie season.

”Last (Wednesday) was really my first day of practice since the

incident,” Williams said. ”So there are going to be some times

when it will get sore, they will like me to take a break and things

of that sort. It’s just precautionary.”

He said he might not play in Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game against

New Orleans in Canton, Ohio, ”just for the simple fact that I know

I’m not 100 percent.”

”There’s still sort of a mental block that I have to break down

facing another team that will probably be 10 times as aggressive as

our team (has been on practice),” Williams said. ”I want to make

sure I’m completely comfortable and mentally comfortable with

myself before I get out there.”

He said he has talked with coach Ken Whisenhunt about whether to

play on Sunday.

”He asked me how comfortable do I feel,” Williams said, ”and

said I’d let him know later on this week.”

But the diminutive, dynamic running back says he has no doubt he

will be ready for the regular season, when he is expected to give

the Cardinals’ offense a big-play aspect it will sorely need. He is

expected to give Arizona a strong two-back threat along with Beanie

Wells, who remains on the physically unable to perform list while

recovering from knee surgery. Wells believes he will be back in

time for the season opener.

Williams’ talent was on full display in the team’s Red and White

scrimmage last Saturday, when he took off on a 44-yard run, the

biggest play of the day for a mostly sputtering offense. Although

he has yet to play in a regular-season game, Williams has become a

fan favorite, as evidence by his reception from the estimated

14,500 fans on hand.

”I think this is such a tough business, you have respect for

players that are gifted, that do things on the field you just go

`Wow,”’ Whisenhunt said. ”And Ryan does that every once in a

while. That’s what catches everybody’s eye, like the 44-yard run in

practice the other day.”

Williams said people who have seen him play realize ”that I can

bring another dimension to the team.”

”They’re anxious to see that on the field,” he said. ”I’m

anxious to be out there myself.”

The Cardinals drafted Williams in the second round out of

Virginia Tech a year ago, and he made an immediate impression. His

presence was a factor in Arizona’s decision to trade running back

Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins in July of last year.

Williams’ ability to cut on a dime, combined with tremendous

speed and surprising power, gave the 5-foot-9, 207-pound runner an

ever-increasing role leading to the 2011 season. But he went down

in a preseason game against Green Bay last Aug. 19, and has had to

patiently, persistently work on rehabilitating the injury ever

since the subsequent surgery.

He said he knows that many players have needed more than a year

to come back from the injury, so he feels comfortable with his

current schedule.

Williams also said that enduring the injury and the work it took

to come back from it has changed the kind of person he is.

”I had a lot of time to myself, just to really sit back and

just think,” he said. ”I felt like I became a better man.”