Williams Starts Healthy
Monday, August 1, 2005
By Nick Wagoner
Grant Williams had perhaps his most difficult season in the NFL a year ago. He struggled to block pretty much anyone, suffered myriad injuries and took the blame for most of the Rams’ offensive problems.
But here he is on the fifth day of training camp lining up with the first team at right tackle again and hoping that an offseason spent gaining weight and recuperating from a series of injuries will be enough to help him get back to a productive level.
Coach Mike Martz said Williams did all of the right things in the offseason.
“Right now, Grant Williams is our starting right tackle because he deserves to be,” Martz said. “He came back almost 30 pounds heavier. This guy played with one arm last year and had no business playing. (He) played 25 pounds lighter than what he is right now, took a lot of criticism (and) played as hard as he could. He’s what we had (and) never made an excuse. Thank goodness we had him. Right now is the best he has felt physically since he’s been in the NFL, so he’s going to have his opportunity to have that position.”
What Williams did last season wasn’t much. In fairness, he was not healthy and underweight for most of the season. Still, when quarterback Marc Bulger injured his shoulder against San Francisco causing him to miss a pair of games, many pointed the finger at Williams.
When asked about his struggles last year, Williams can’t help but take responsibility for what happened.
“Well, some of those sacks were me,” Williams said. “I can’t help it, per se, if I am hurting. They did give me the option of bowing out and getting surgery and I didn’t want to do that. As long as I could play, I wanted to try and play so I did what I could.”
Williams played most of last season around 290 pounds, awfully low for a guy who is 6’7. That low weight made Williams vulnerable to the bull rush, a maneuver many teams took advantage of with larger defensive ends.
Because of Williams’ shoulder and elbow problems, pass rushers also had success blowing past him if they chose not to use the bull rush. Williams took the offseason to correct both of those problems and is in better shape now than he was at any point last year.
After declining to have surgery last season so he could help the already-banged up offensive line, Williams did have to undergo the operations in the offseason. Williams finished the season with a torn labrum and rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder. The rotator cuff injury was an old tear from his days as a pitcher. The surgery cleaned those injuries up and he also had bone chips cleaned up from his left elbow.
Although Williams isn’t the most physically imposing tackle on the roster, he does have an intricate knowledge of the system. Williams’ hold on the starting job isn’t set in stone, but he said he will do whatever it takes to hang on.
“I definitely know the offense and here that is a bonus in and of itself,” Williams said. “I feel better than I have in awhile. There is no reason I can’t play for this team. My career has never been one to be about the spotlight. I have been in the league for 10 years and I have probably played in about half the games over the 10 years and you just have to be ready when you’re called on and come through for the team.”
INJURY UPDATE: Receiver Torry Holt missed his second consecutive practice, but Martz said the injury isn’t serious.
“He’s got a tight lower back, same thing he went through last year,” Martz said.
Holt missed some practice time with that same ailment a year ago, but it did not cause him to miss any game action.
Cornerback Travis Fisher is also limited in practice right now because of the possibility of a groin injury.
“He can practice, (but) I’m not going to practice him until we find out exactly what it is,” Martz said. “I want to make sure we get it treated right.”
Joining Holt and Fisher on the sidelines were cornerback Jerametrius Butler (knee bruise) and running back Dusty McGrorty (knee strain). Offensive lineman Matt Morgan returned to the practice field after missing time because of dehydration.
CLASH OF THE TITANS: One of the most exciting things to watch in training camp has been the one-on-one matchups between left tackle Orlando Pace and defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
Hargrove’s non-stop motor against Pace’s overpowering skills have brought the attention of the fans and the coaches. Martz says that the battle will help Pace, but especially Hargrove.
“That’s a titanic matchup,” Martz said. “I think as time will go on that Tony will really kind of be identified as a marquee player in this league eventually. He’s a ways away at this point, but he’s worth getting excited about.”
RETURN TO GLORY?: During the Rams’ runs to the Super Bowl they often had a better than average return game, featuring the likes of Tony Horne and Az-zahir Hakim.
That extra weapon was lacking last season as the team finished near the bottom of the league in every category. Martz said his group should improve, if for no other reason than it has to.
“Well you can’t fall out of the basement can you?” Martz said. “So I think that we will get better.”
The kickoff return improved some with the addition of Aveion Cason, who is an early favorite to land the job again. Cornerback DeJuan Groce is expected to get the first shot at returning punts.
BARRON WATCH: First-round draft choice Alex Barron is expected to agree to a contract at any moment.
The players in front of (Minnesota’s Erasmus James) and behind (Dallas’ Marcus Spears) Barron in the draft have signed deals and offensive tackle Jammal Brown has signed with New Orleans.
Although Barron could be in camp as early as tomorrow, Martz is still frustrated with the situation.
“I really don’t know what’s going on with him,” Martz said. “It’s frustrating for all of us. If he really, truly understood how this affects him, I think he’d get in here immediately. The agent works for him, he doesn’t work for that agent. The agent should do what he tells him to do, that’s how that goes.”
JUST VISITING: The Rams welcomed some special guests to practice Monday. Included in the group were 17 people from Rainbows for Kids and the Urban League.
Rainbows for Kids is an organization that helps children with cancer and their families at Cardinal Glennon Hospital.
The Urban League conducts programs and provides services to the community in a variety of areas.