GREEN BAY – Tramon Williams doesn’t really have anything to prove, but don’t tell him that.
He’ll be the last one to minimize the importance of making a play like he did in Saturday’s training camp practice, when he cut across the back of the end zone to break up a pass from DeShone Kizer intended for tight end Jimmy Graham.
It was a smart, savvy move that required his brain as much as his body, recognizing and reacting in time based on what he saw in front of him and the concept the defense reviewed in a meeting earlier that morning.
It was also a subtle message from the 13-year veteran cornerback that he’s still here and plans to stick around.
“You still need to be able to show something,” Williams said after the Packers’ third practice at Ray Nitschke Field, the first in shoulder pads. “I’ve always carried that with me into every camp. No matter where the arrow is pointing, whether it’s pointing at me making the team or not, I carry that with me. That’s what you have to do.”
That mentality stems in part from his roots as an undrafted unknown who went from the practice squad to the Pro Bowl in less than five years. But his leadership role with a young cornerback group also motivates him, as does seeing surprise roster moves like the release of Mike Daniels earlier this week.
“Those situations give you a perspective of your time could be short, so you don’t take these snaps for granted,” he said. “You have to continue to go out there competing and making plays and earning your keep.”
As of now, Williams’ keep will be the slot corner position in coordinator Mike Pettine’s nickel defense. Having played everywhere from the boundary to deep centerfield in the secondary throughout his long career, Williams appreciates the slot because as a more centrally located position close to the line of scrimmage, he can communicate with the entire defense.
He sees those verbal responsibilities diminishing somewhat, though, as he’s no longer the lone Green Bay defender who played for Pettine before (in Cleveland). Last year, Williams was the defensive back answering everyone’s questions about the scheme. This year, the post-practice conversations with his defensive mates are more about the plays the offense is running against them, not just about the basics of a system they’re trying to learn.
“He’s just a steady presence back there,” Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. “He is a great teammate in the fact that he helps the young guys along. I’ve been really pleased with what he brings to the table for our defense.”
The progression for the unit as a whole has been natural in the second year under Pettine, but the biggest adjustment has been to the up-tempo elements LaFleur is installing on offense.
Several times each practice, the offense will sprint out of the huddle, get to the line and snap the ball as quickly as possible. The idea is to catch the defense not fully set and still adjusting to the formation as the ball is being snapped.
There were several pre-snap penalties in those hurry-up moments on Saturday – on both sides of the ball – so it needs to get cleaned up. But Williams believes it’s great preparation, especially this early in camp, for what the defense is going to face in the fall.
“It’s very, very tough,” he said. “Go back to last year, the games that we struggled in that guys moved the ball down the field on us, it was because they speeded up the tempo. It reminds me obviously of the Rams … the 49ers a little bit, and obviously the Patriots. That’s very effective.”
Additional valuable preparation is coming in a little over a week when the Houston Texans join the Packers for two days of practice. Williams has been a part of joint practices before, taking a train ride from Cleveland to Buffalo while with the Browns in 2015.
While opposing players understand it’s a practice, Williams noted “it’s definitely intense” for a summer workout, and LaFleur continues to harp on wanting the urgency in practice to pick up even before Family Night and the Texans arrive.
The Packers had shoulder pads on for Day 3 of training camp practice.
“I don’t think Coach is saying guys are not being urgent, he just wants to see it all the time,” Williams said. “He wants to see it consistently. He wants that to be our identity, and until we get there, then he won’t stop preaching it.”
Williams has no plans to stop making plays, either, even if it is his 14th NFL training camp (he has one more camp than accrued season under his belt because he was never on an active roster his rookie year in 2006).
Battling through yet another one, at age 36, doesn’t faze him the slightest.
“I’ve been through two-a-days, man,” he said with his trademark, knowing smile. “Just practicing one a day, it’s easy, man. It’s easy.
“I just still love the game. I do it for the people who can’t do it, for the people who deserve to do it but don’t have a chance to do it. You consider all those things and know that you’re blessed to play this game.”