And it was.
Williams missed the final 14 snaps in that game but just 13 in the other 16 games (including playoffs) combined. Williams wasn't nearly as good as he was in 2010. Kept secret until the end of the season, Williams said he sustained nerve damage that not only took away his strength but the strength of his game — his ability to play aggressive, press-man coverage at the line of scrimmage.
"I could shoot my arm, but it just physically was so weak," Williams said on Thursday, the final day of minicamp and the final practice until training camp begins on July 26.
"If the receiver hits my arm, (the jam is) gone because I have no strength in it. They'd beat me off press at any given time they wanted."
Williams was the NFL's best-kept secret in 2010. According to data from ProFootballFocus.com, Williams ranked second in the league with a quarterback rating of 48.3, sixth with 0.88 yards allowed per snap in coverage, seventh with 46.8 percent completions and eighth with one completion allowed for every 13.4 snaps in coverage.
Contrast that to last season, when Williams ranked 29th with a quarterback rating of 79.8, 64th with 1.69 yards allowed per snap in coverage, 32nd with 56.5 percent completions and 47th with one completion allowed for every 10.0 snaps in coverage.
"If you watch film (closely), when I'm running, I'm kind of carrying my shoulder with me. Basically, I'm not 100 percent. I'm not going 100 percent out there because I'm carrying my shoulder with me and I've got to watch what I do. You don't want to mess with nerve damage, let's just say that."
Incredibly, after allowing 44 receptions for 523 yards in 2010, Williams yielded 61 receptions for a league-worst 1,034 yards in 2011.
With Williams no longer a shutdown corner, the defense suffered. A unit that spearheaded the Packers' Super Bowl championship in 2010 set a league record for passing yards allowed in 2011.
"I look at it like this," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "Tramon is a selfless man, because he shouldn't … I'm not going to say he shouldn't have been out there, but he did what he thought was best for the football team, and he put the football team before his body. And guys don't do that in this era. He was really hurt. Was he close to 100 percent? No, he wasn't. Did we make any excuses about that? No, because once he ran out there, that meant that he was good enough to help us win."
Williams' toughness showed that, while one of the team's most highly paid players, he retains the mentality of an undrafted free agent who wasn't even good enough for a practice squad spot after his release by the Texans in 2006.
"That's what we do in the NFL, you play through it," Williams said. "If you can, you play through it. If you don't play through it, then you've got one of these good youngsters sitting on the sidelines and they step in, they have an awesome season, then what happens? Then what happens? That's the thing about the league. There's decisions that you have to make. It may be better for your career, it may be wrong for your career (to let an injury heal). But you have to make decisions at that point, that's the type of stuff that guys look at. When things like that happen. It's a tough league, it's dirty, but you have to do it."
Williams said he wouldn't change a thing about his decision, even though he struggled on the field and some fans questioned whether the contract and success had gone to his head.
"We came to the conclusion that it was the best for the team for me to play. So, I played," he said. "I did it for my teammates, and at the end of the day they respect me for it. That's all I can ask for."
In February, Williams had testing done that showed the injured nerve was "firing at maybe 15 percent." He took about a month-and-a-half off from heavy lifting before going back to work. Before the injury, he could push up a 125-pound dumb bell with his right shoulder. After the injury, Williams said he couldn't push up a 30-pound dumb bell. Now, after rehabbing five days a week, he's up to about 100 pounds.
The lack of strength was evident on the field. In 2010, he allowed 185 yards after the catch, which ranked 31st of 68 cornerbacks. In 2011, he ranked 65th of 66 cornerbacks with 341 yards allowed after the catch.
"I'm glad that it got stronger, it hasn't gotten there yet," Williams said. "The nerve hasn't quite fired back like it should. But I think it's coming (and) the doctors think it's coming. They don't see any reason why it shouldn't come back. We didn't know (then) if it would come back, (now) we think it will come back. So, that's a good sign."
Williams, who hasn't had the nerve rechecked yet, doesn't think he'll be 100 percent healthy in time for training camp, but he has no intention of asking the coaches to take it easy on him leading up to the season.
"You've just got to tune it out and suck it up," he said. "Obviously, I couldn't do what I wanted to do, but at the end of the day, we had a terrible defense. Yeah, we did. But we were productive out there. We did what we've always done – we turned the ball over. We have things to build off of now. We're excited about it. I'm just ready to get back out there."
And after a subpar season, Whitt has no doubt which Williams will be on the field this season.
"With a healthy Tramon Williams, the way he played in 2010 is what you'll see," Whitt said. "I'm confident with him. With how he played in 2010, you'll see that in 2012."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.