CB Williams, DT Muir Find Their Way Onto Roster

Every year there are one or two so-called "longshots" that make the final roster of an NFL team, that make the leap from an unknown commodity to a player with too much potential to let go. Such is the case with cornerback Tramon Williams and defensive tackle Daniel Muir for the Packers in 2007. - More Packers-Eagles Gameday


Every year there are one or two so-called "longshots" that make the final roster of an NFL team, that make the leap from a seemingly unknown commodity to a player with too much potential to let go come final cutdown time.

Such is the case with cornerback Tramon Williams and defensive tackle Daniel Muir for the Green Bay Packers in 2007. What looked like simply extra names at positions with considerable depth and competition before training camp began have made the team's 53-man roster for Sunday's season opener against Philadelphia.

But to hear Williams, a Louisiana Tech product who joined the Packers' practice squad in late November last year, and Muir, a non-drafted rookie free agent from Kent State, talk about making the team, neither spoke in terms of being the "longshot" everyone pegged them to be.

Even if true, they felt they couldn't have that mindset, or they'd have no chance to succeed.

"Really, I never thought the odds were against me," said Williams, who was released by the Houston Texans in their final roster reduction last September before coming to Green Bay 2 1/2 months later. "When I came in for the practice squad, the coaches made me feel like I was here so I could play, so I always took that approach to it, that I'm here to play."

Neither player was naïve as to the difficulties they'd face. Williams began training camp behind a deep group of reserve cornerbacks that included Jarrett Bush, Will Blackmon, Frank Walker and Patrick Dendy, and he knew getting noticed would be a challenge.

Meanwhile Muir was just as aware of the team's depth at defensive tackle, which included the 16th overall pick in the draft, Justin Harrell. But for both players there was a difference between understanding their surroundings, and being intimidated by them.

"I've got all veterans in front of me, and they're all good and capable of playing every snap," Muir said. "And you've got a first-round draft pick who's good and capable of playing every snap also. I knew it was going to be a hard road, but I just prayed and played.

"That's a motto I just kept in my head. 'Pray and play.' I knew if I did that, I'd be fine."

Of the two, Williams started showing up in practice first. Cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington recalled that he made a few impressive pass break-ups in the early days of training camp, the first signs that all his work in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program was paying off.

Then, if there's such a thing as a game-saving play in the preseason, Williams made it against Pittsburgh in the first game. With the Packers leading 13-9 with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Steelers faced fourth-and-1 at the Green Bay 45-yard line.

Quarterback Brian St. Pierre tried to throw a short pass to rookie receiver Eric Fowler, and Williams was there to knock it away, preserving the Packers' victory.

That wasn't the only reason he made the team, though. Washington said he just kept getting better each week with his technique - running with the receivers, playing the deep ball better, and using his hands at the line of scrimmage effectively.

"I don't like to pick out certain plays, I think it's his overall play," Washington said. "That signifies why he's here. Anybody can make one or two plays, but he's consistent with what he's doing. That's the biggest thing is his consistency, he's really improved in that way."

{sportsad300}He also showed he'd be able to help on special teams, both on coverage units and as a return man, which boosted his chances. In fact, if Blackmon is unable to handle kickoff returns on Sunday because of the cast on his fractured thumb, Williams likely will be one of the two deep men on kickoffs against the Eagles.

"I feel I can contribute definitely on special teams," said Williams, who ultimately beat out Dendy amongst the cornerback group. "That will be my first priority. And if any of these guys go down, I feel I've got the ability to step in at corner."

Defensive tackles coach Robert Nunn feels the same way about Muir on the interior of the line. A stout 6-foot-2 and 298 pounds, Muir is a load to move when defending the run but has the strength and agility to collapse the pocket against the pass as well. A defensive end in college, Muir also could play on the outside in a pinch.

"He has some natural pass-rush ability," Nunn said. "When we're in pass rush, he gets on the edge of guys real quick, and he gives those guys trouble. That's the thing that's shown up consistently."

Muir admitted the first preseason game at Pittsburgh felt like "a blur," as he struggled adjusting to the speed of the pro game. But he felt more comfortable the following week against Seattle, tying for the team lead in tackles with six (five solo). He finished the preseason with 12 total tackles.

But it wasn't just the preseason games when Muir was in on the action. Nunn noticed him in position drills, one-on-one pass-rush drills, and in team (11-on-11) periods in training camp, a reflection of Muir's tireless work ethic during the dog days of the summer.

"They know I'm going to work hard," Muir said. "I tried to get as many reps as I could. Anytime I saw somebody tired and wanted to come out, I tried to get in."

And now, both Williams and Muir are "in" the NFL. From a numbers standpoint, while General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy kept one more player than expected in the secondary (10) and on the defensive line (11), they did so in essence to find room for Williams and Muir.

Their talent and potential indicated they deserved a roster spot, because it wasn't a matter of needing an extra body at those positions.

"Ted and Mike have said since Day One," Nunn said. "We're not letting good football players get away from us."

Longshots or not.

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