Cardinals’ Maxx Williams taking ‘day-by-day’ approach in return from injury
GLENDALE — Arizona Cardinals tight end Maxx Williams surprised many this offseason when he was taken off the physically unable to perform list last Thursday.
Clearly ahead of schedule in his return from a season-ending knee injury, Williams is back getting on-the-field work after being stuck on the sofa — and handing out weekly awards — for a good part of 2021.
But while Williams is trending in the right direction, the tight end isn’t letting himself get too far ahead as he prepares for Year 8, much like his rehab process.
“I think it’s one of those where we didn’t expect when I was going to come off PUP or not,” Williams said Monday. “We were planning if I can start on the PUP in the season, going into it that way, but it was one of those — I felt ready to make the next step. They were comfortable with it.
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“We kind of got to the point of the rehab where I was like, ‘I need to go see if I can play football.’ You can only do so much when you’re upstairs with the trainers and stuff. It’s a whole different game. So I’m just making the next step, taking our time and taking it day by day.”
Williams’ progression is impressive given the magnitude of the injury. The road to recovery was anything but straight, however.
Luckily for Williams, a strong support system of his family and wife, not to mention a newborn son at home, never let the tight end get too high or too low as he grinded his way back.
All the work he put in behind the scenes has gotten him to this point.
“Obviously I stayed engaged as best I could during the season,” Williams said. “And this offseason was going to work every day rehabbing and trying to get to this point we’re at now. Now at this point, still taking it day by day. That’s the whole approach I’ve done since I got hurt and play football.
“We’re in no rush,” Williams added. “We still got two weeks of camp left, a couple preseason games. It’s a long time until September, so I’m going to take things day by day and see how we go.”
The Cardinals and Williams are hoping that slow-roll approach continues to pay off in 2022.
Before going down with the injury, Williams was on his way to the most productive season of his NFL career, reeling in 193 receiving yards and a touchdown on 16 catches (17 targets).
Since then, Arizona has added a proven veteran in Zach Ertz and a promising rookie in Trey McBride to the tight ends room.
Ertz showed off his abilities in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense in a big way last season behind three touchdowns and 574 yards over 11 games played in the desert. He was rewarded for his efforts with a three-year deal this offseason.
The Cardinals then doubled down on TE and nabbed the athletic McBride with their second-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft. McBride’s bread and butter is his pass-catching prowess, but has also turned heads in his blocking ability, something Williams is highly regarded in.
The room has certainly been bolstered since Williams’ injury, leaving many to wonder how snap counts are going to play out over the course of the season.
For Williams, it’s all about picking those up around you and again, taking it all day by day.
“I think that’s just being good teammates,” Williams said about being another voice to the young guys. “We have a great tight end room this year. I don’t think we’ve ever had this much fun as a group and just the talent that’s in there.
“It’s great having Trey here and (Chris Pierce Jr.) the other rookie. … They’re picking up the offense amazing. Even in the spring, it was crazy.”
– Williams on being a new dad:
“I can’t even put one moment on it. I can even think about the first time I came home from rehab and he recognized me and smiled from being able to see him smile knowing who we are. I love it. Every day is a new experience being a dad. I found that out.”