"My shoulder's good. My shoulder is really good," the Green Bay Packers' No. 1 cornerback said after Tuesday's organized team activities practice. "We're just taking our time with it. My shoulder is good; it's always been good.
"I'm ready to put that away. A lot of people are asking me about it and those questions are getting old to me. I'm good. My shoulder's really good and I'm ready to go 100 percent."
At 30 years old, Williams is the elder statesman of the Packers' secondary with Charles Woodson's release and eventual signing with Oakland. Other than special-teams ace Jarrett Bush, who is 29, the next-oldest member of the secondary is Brandon Smith, a 26-year-old first-year player.
Williams says he's ready to fill some of Woodson's leadership void. Then again, Williams long has been a leader to the annual parade of late-round and undrafted players hoping to beat the odds, just like Williams did as an undrafted free agent who was out of the league for almost three months before signing to Green Bay's practice squad late in 2006.
"It's definitely different (without Woodson)," Williams said. "Obviously, you've got someone whose presence is felt in more than one way. Wood's presence was felt wherever he was, whether it was the locker room, whether it was the meeting room, whether it was out there on the field. His presence was felt everywhere. You know, a lot of guys are going to be looking for that presence. I was told that I'm the oldest guy of the DBs so I'll take on that role."
Williams' play the past two seasons has made him a surprising lightning rod, considering how fans typically embrace a rigs-to-riches story and a player who plays through pain.
Williams signed a lucrative contract extension in November 2010, then went on to have one of the greatest postseason runs a cornerback has ever enjoyed with the clinching interception at Philadelphia, a defining pick-six at Atlanta and the game-ending pass breakup in the Super Bowl.
However, in the fourth quarter of the 2011 opener against New Orleans, Williams sustained nerve damage to his shoulder after colliding with Nick Collins. Williams played in 15 games, intercepted four passes and set a career high with 24 passes defensed, but not surprisingly wasn't the same player given the pain and lack of strength and range of motion. In 2012, he had just two interceptions — both in Week 2 against Chicago — and 24 passes defensed again. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he allowed a passer rating of 77.2 — much better than the 89.7 from 2011 but a far cry from his otherworldly 43.8 in 2010.
"I feel that any time you step on the field that you want to put your best foot forward," Williams said. "You don't want to look back. Every year's different, coaches will tell you that, but you put your best foot forward, put all your work in and, at the end of the day, you can live with it because you know you've done everything that you possibly can."
Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt defended Williams' play at the end of last season.
"To say that I'm disappointed, no, because I know what he did week-in and week-out and what we ask him to do," Whitt said. "Does he feel like he can play better in certain situations? I'm sure he does. But I know the positions we put him in, and we put him in some difficult positions that other people aren't asked to be put in. Now the question is, have Sam (Shields) and Casey (Hayward) picked up their play where they can be put in some of those situations and so it's an equal playing field? In 2010, he wasn't put in as many because you had Woodson there, as well. If you remember in 2010, one time we played Detroit, Woodson matched him (Calvin Johnson). The next time we played (Johnson), Tramon matched him. So, there was a balance. Now, there is no Woodson, so Tramon was put in all the difficult matchups."
Entering his seventh season with the team and as the fourth-oldest player on the club, Williams sees these voluntary workouts as critical. That especially true as the Packers move on without Woodson while trying to assemble a championship-caliber defense.
"Oh, yeah, no doubt about it," he said. "That's the way we do it here in Green Bay. That's the way from top to bottom that we do it. We like to bring guys in, we like to progress them slowly. It's not going to be any different. I know we hear a lot of things about how Green Bay's not making any moves or not doing this. We've been winning with the program that we have for years now. There's no need to change it. Everyone trusts in the guys upstairs and I think they trust in us. As a family, we're going to ride together."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.