Jun 4, 2013, 5:00 PM EDT
Eagles cornerback Cary Williams would like everybody to know that we’re talking about practice – not a game, but practice.
One of the franchise’s top free agent additions from this offseason, Williams was not only expected to come to Philly and start in a rebuilding secondary. Signed away from the Baltimore Ravens for three years/ $17 million, he is being counted on to bring a championship-caliber attitude and effort to the club as well.
Yet prior to this week’s mini-camp beginning on Tuesday, Williams had committed much of his time away from organized training activities at the NovaCare Complex. While the programs are completely voluntary in name, the unwritten rules of NFL coaches call for as close to full participation as possible.
There was Williams’ wedding and subsequent honeymoon, although it was tough to begrudge him that. He was also missing while checking in on the construction of his new home, and to have some dental work done. The latter excuses seemed a bit more unusual.
Most recently Williams skipped last week’s OTAs to attend his daughter’s recital, which is when Jeff McLane finally decided to take him to task. The Eagles beat writer for the Inquirer pointed to Chip Kelly’s staff laying the groundwork for their new defensive schemes at these practices, adding Williams’ absences did not put the team first.
That was last Saturday. Williams had the chance to respond to criticisms for the first time following day one of this mandatory camp.
Cary Williams on missing OTAs: “If I had 3 children w/ 3 women and I was a womanizer, you’d be reporting that. Now I’m a guy that wants …
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) June 4, 2013
“… to go see his girl’s recital and I’m a bad guy.”
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) June 4, 2013
Per reports, Williams also reflected on his own childhood, acknowledging that he grew up in a household without two parents, and that he is proud to be there for his daughter. It’s not the first time he’s admitted family comes before football.
You have to hold a certain amount of respect for that point of view from a father, but he didn’t stop there. When pressed about the feeling of Eagles fans that he should have participated in these practices, Williams seemed to question the very significance of a full NFL offseason schedule.
Williams told fans want him at OTAs: “How many fans come to preseason games, if it’s that important? … Fans, I love ya but jeez.”
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 4, 2013
We’re talking about practice – voluntary practice at that.
First of all, I’m not sure there even was much of an outcry from the fans to begin with on the subject of players missing OTAs. Even if there was, Williams is right to a degree. If he is ready to play at a high level come September, will anybody care or even remember this story?
As a result of missing so many reps, Kelly did bust Williams down to second-string at some recent practices. However, the head coach has reiterated many times that there is no depth chart in any meaningful sense of the term at this stage of the year, as evidenced by his experimenting with varying “first-team” looks.
According to reports, Williams was back running with the starters on Tuesday. That further meshes with his outlook, which essentially boils down to being ready to do the job when the time comes. Via the Inq’s Zach Berman last week:
“It’s just one of those things where I missed a couple of weeks, guys have been here, and Coach has given them an opportunity. And that’s fine. OTAs are OTAs. When we get the pads on, it’s a different thing.”
“Once we get the pads on,” Williams said, “the cream will rise to the top.”
Ideally Williams would attend every OTA, as would every player on the roster, and I tend to agree with McLane that some of these work diversions could have been scheduled so as not to interfere with team activities. But giving a man grief for attending his daughter’s recital? That seems harsh.
At the end of the day, we’re talking about practice.
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