Williams doesn't come up short

Long before compact rookie safety Chad Williams launched an unprecedented trifecta collection of game balls, Baltimore Ravens secondary coach Donnie Henderson had disavowed a few of his initial opinions. When the Ravens' scouting department recommended Williams for the Ravens' final selection of the sixth round last April, this is what Henderson knew: Williams stood just 5-foot-9.

Henderson was aware that Williams' reputation was primarily based on operating like an extra linebacker for Southern Mississippi. His pass coverage skills had drawn few compliments from scouts and draft analysts.

"Chad has been a breath of fresh air, because when we first got him I thought he was going to be a physical, down-in-the-box type of player that you had to sit in there and hide him a little bit because of his height," Henderson said.

Several months of observation and a landmark game by Williams in the Ravens' 27-23 Ravens over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday later, Henderson has revised his thoughts. As have a lot of other league observers following Williams' 98-yard interception return for a touchdown that tied a club record and a blocked punt that led to wideout Ron Johnson's score.

The phone in Henderson's office at the Ravens' training complex rang steadily Monday with a stream of people curious about Williams, who received game balls from Ravens coach Brian Billick for offense, defense and special teams. As the Ravens' dime back, Williams resembles a stocky fullback or wrestler at 207 pounds.

"Leaping like he does makes you taller," Henderson said. "Chad's not little. He's just short. Height would be a concern with most people. In Chad's case, as long as he can run and jump, has good ball skills and can communicate, that's all I need."

At Southern Miss, Williams was an all-Conference USA selection with 303 career tackles, 10 sacks, eight forced fumbles, two interceptions and 15 pass deflections. On Sunday, Williams nearly exhausted himself on his interception return before a block by former Golden Eagle Adalius Thomas sprung him toward the end zone.

"I didn't know how far 98 yards was," Williams told reporters afterward.

Throughout the season, Williams, 23, has performed well in the background of first-round pick Ed Reed, the starting strong safety who leads the team with four interceptions. Defensively, Williams has 35 tackles, two interceptions and five pass deflections. He also leads the club with 14 special teams tackles.

"Chad Williams is the poster boy for this team," Billick said. "Is there a kid on this team that is more wide-eyed, younger looking and saying, ‘Wow, I can't believe that I'm doing this.' Every day at practice he just keeps getting better and better and just keeps showing up in games."

Henderson said he has been pleasantly surprised by Williams' ability to catch the football. He definitely won't complain about not having to repeat his instructions back to the native of Birmingham, Ala.

Henderson had been telling Williams for weeks to just keep running on interception and fumble returns where he was eventually ruled down by contact. This time, persistence paid off.

"I like guys like him who can catch the ball and are very intelligent," Henderson said. "Chad doesn't say a word, but if you tell him something, then he usually gets it the first time."

Williams' explanation for his success?

"Patience," has been his mantra all fall. "I just keep waiting for my chance and for my time to come."

NOTES: The Ravens officially placed veteran defensive end Michael McCrary on injured reserve Tuesday because of his chronic knee problems. McCrary hasn't announced his retirement, but Billick indicated Monday that the medical prognosis on the former Pro Bowl lineman was bleak. The club elevated offensive tackle Lawrence Smith to the active roster from the practice squad, signing rookie wideout Marc Lester (Morgan State) to the practice squad.

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