Cardinals running back Ryan Williams knows how rarely multiple chances come in the NFL — especially for running backs, the position that averages the shortest career in professional sports.
After missing his rookie season with a torn patella in his right knee, being sidelined for 11 games in 2012 with a shoulder injury and suffering from right knee irritation through much of this year’s training camp, Williams enters Sunday’s season-opener in St. Louis as one of several options behind starter Rashard Mendenhall. And he knows his time to make an impression is running out.
“Everybody who’s followed my story knows that I’ve been through a lot these past few years,” Williams said. “A lot of people don’t get as many chances as I’ve had. Obviously I’ve shown something for the coaches to believe in me and keep me on this team. I’m really excited to show what I’ve got and show that I still have it.”
Williams has shown flashes of the ability that led the Cardinals to take him with the 38th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech, where he rushed for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman before racking up 477 yards in an injury-plagued sophomore season.
The third-year back described his running style as a combination of the things that the Cardinals’ other running backs excel at, like Andre Ellington’s speed or Alfonso Smith’s power. But Williams said his best trait as a runner isn’t a physical one.
“I really feel my biggest asset is my vision and the ability to be a big threat,” Williams said. “I can turn nothing into something.”
The 5-foot-9, 207-pounder finished last season as the Cardinals’ fourth-leading rusher despite playing in only five games, highlighted by a 13-carry, 83-yard performance in a win over Philadelphia.
But while Williams performed well in his limited duty a season ago, he said lingering effects from the torn patella may have led to another injury-filled campaign.
“Once you start worrying about the injuries, you play intimidated,” Williams said. “I don’t think I was ready physically to go play (in 2012). Now I have another year under my belt, and I feel very confident — even with the injuries — to go out there and play.”
Williams said he doesn’t have any additional feelings about returning to St. Louis, which is where his season was ended last year, adding that “it’s just a football game for me, regardless of where it’s played or what’s happened there.”