If you haven’t read Tyler Dunne’s story on Packers CB Tramon Williams and his injured shoulder in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, take a few minutes and check it out.
Williams sounds like a tough guy, doesn’t he? Sounds like the type of guy that would fit in just as well in the Vince Lombardi era as he does in the Mike McCarthy era. From Dunne’s story:
“His shoulder was torn, strained, bruised – and worst of all – Williams suffered nerve damage. That nerve damage zapped Williams’ aggressiveness and his play suffered.”
You can’t question Williams’ toughness, but is too much toughness a bad thing?
After a breakout season in 2010 earned him a new contract, Williams was terrible in 2011. The lack of a pass rush and overall ineptitude of the defense didn’t help, but there’s no sugar-coating the fact that Williams got torched way too often.
It sounds like Williams’ injured shoulder changed how he played and probably was to blame for at least a few of those torchings.
The injury also meant that Williams couldn’t press cover. When teammates were in the area of the ballcarrier, Williams avoided contact as much as possible, letting other players make tackles (or miss them). He also stayed away from pile-ups.
Now Williams is saying that the shoulder still bothers him and he might not be back to 100 percent before training camp.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my deck, enjoying a glass of water after my bike ride home from work (I’m also avoiding grocery shopping until my wife gets mad and orders me to go). In other words, I am in no position to judge whether an NFL cornerback is fit to play or not.
But the question has to be asked: What was gained by having an injured Williams take the field over and over again? Was a one-armed Williams really a better option than a healthy Davon House, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee?
Yes, House is unproven and Bush and Lee make us wince whenever they run on the field, but Williams was in their shoes at one point, too. At the very least, Williams should have sat out the regular season finale where he was abused by Calvin Johnson and “was in visible pain in the locker room” after the game.
I’m not saying House/Bush/Lee would have been better than Williams, but damn, was it really worth putting Williams out there every week?
Toughness and a team-first attitude in players is a good thing. You want players that want to play regardless of the situation. But at some point the organization has to step in if that player is doing more harm than good — both to himself and to the team — by playing.
By his own admission, Williams avoided tackling, couldn’t press-cover and couldn’t bench press 30 pounds after hurting his shoulder. Now he has nerve damage that might bother him into this season, and maybe longer. The Packers gained little, if anything, by trotting out a one-armed cornerback week in and week out.
Players that are injured should not play. We like to romanticize moments where an athlete limps out of the locker room and leads his team to victory, but the truth is that Williams’ situation is much more common than we realize.
Most players want to be heroes. Few things make a player more heroic in the eyes of the public than playing through pain.
Sometimes the more heroic thing to do is sit down. That might have been true for Tramon Williams last season.——————
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .