Did Too Much Toughness Backfire on Tramon Williams Last Season?

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Maybe being so tough backfired on Tramon Williams last season.

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.

Yikes.

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.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • Ron LC

    He still was able to get in the way. His description sure does explain a lot of what I saw on the field. What’s concerning is that they HAD TO play him regardless of his on-filed performance. That’s not a very good vote of confidence in the DB backups.

    In addition, his comments about his currenmt status are concerning. It sure sounds to me like there are residual isssues remaining. The D needs Williams at full speed.

    Capers has got to fix the D NOW. The good news is that with the time and new depth at key positions he should be able to do it.

  • FourEyesBrewing

    I think it’d be helpful to think about the different types of injuries that can be sustained. Some injuries require time and rest to heal, and playing will only make it worse. On the other hand, some are painful, but playing won’t hurt it any more. Perhaps Williams’ fell in the latter group. If we look at Burnett’s club, clearly the coaches feel these players are not so easily replaced, even if they only have one good arm.

    • Adam Czech

      Agreed. But even if the injury could not get worse, how smart is it to have a guy who can only use one arm on the field? I can see doing it for a game or two late in the season or the playoffs.

      But for an entire season?

  • Tarynfor12

    How much of this his being tough or coaches being stupid in playing him had to do with the unbeaten season.

    • Adam Czech

      Who knows. But even if they had 16-0 in mind, Williams could only use one arm (for the most part). One-armed CBs usually don’t help your cause when trying to go 16-0.

  • Mojo

    You bring up a good topic of conversation that I’ve had with various people over the years relating to injuries. Is it better to play player A (preferred starter) who might be at 75% over player B (first sub) who can go at 100%. I can’t think of too many players who are so much better than their understudy that by putting in the sub decreases the teams chance to win in the above situation. You’d think at the pro level the difference between A and B shouldn’t be that great.

    And when you think about it, putting in a corner who has no strength in one of his arms for nearly the entire season is either stubborn or stupid. The coaches must have seen how Tramon was unable to tackle or press. Kudos to TW for trying to stick it out, but for the betterment of the team the coaching staff should have pulled him out for his own and the teams welfare. It’s hard to believe that the team would favor a player who’s shoulder is so messed up he can’t bench more than 30 pounds. The only things I can think of as to why the Pack didn’t pull Tramon is they were either unaware as to the extent of his injuries or they thought the alternatives were not as good as a one-armed man. IMO they would have been better off going with the alternatives.

    So when you answer your question: “Was a one-armed Williams really a better option than a healthy Davon House, Jarrett Bush or Pat Lee?” with a yes, I’d have to disagree. I think the Pack having the worst passing D in league history somewhat bears that out.

  • James david Marsh

    The DB problem was that House was hobbled and hence could not run and cover. Lee never was able to both stay healthy and pick up the knowledge the position requires to be effective on the field of play. Bush is still learning how to cover. GB still needed someone who could attempt to cover and tackle. Shields also had problems in coverage and tackling. GB still had to put people on the field and everyone just got tired as there simply was no capable alturnatives.

  • Tarynfor12

    Injuries and level of play are a part of the success or failure of a team or the individual.Every team and player needs to adjust to those items.However,the play of another unit will render the adjustments useless if that unit fails and…..

    “You guys watch the games,” Woodson said. “You’re seeing the same things we do. You see quarterbacks sitting in the pocket, getting off their first read, getting to the second read and maybe getting to the third read. That’s hard. You can be a great cover guy but if you have to cover for five or six seconds during the course of the game, that’s hard on you in the defensive backfield. We look forward to shoring that up this season and being able to play the way we love to play.”

    It’s possible I read too much into this as to the topic of Tra playing injured but it seems someone felt that even injured,the unit would have been better if the other guys were simply better.

  • Dan

    I hope TW isn’t hampered by his injury again this year. My fear is he starts playing more physical and injures the shoulder more. I hope this thing has healed enough that a re-injury doesn’t take place.

  • Adam Czech

    Playing physical is Tramon’s game. If he can’t do it, he probably should sit out until he can.

  • Michael

    so why did williams shut down megatron in their 1st meeting? what does the film say concerning both meetings?