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
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.”