Lee’s latest injury, a torn ACL suffered Tuesday afternoon, is the most recent in a long line of ailments that have earned him the dreaded “injury prone” tag. Williams, a fellow second round pick taken one year after Lee, knows all about that label, as it helped define his disappointing stint with the Arizona Cardinals.
“I’ve heard about his injury bug, and I can relate to that. Because for people who don’t know, sometimes it happens – we’re not machines, we’re human,” Williams said. “Sometimes things happen, but any and everybody knows when 50 is on the field – even I do, being on a whole different team and a whole other organization – when 50 is on the field, he makes plays.”
Williams comes to the Cowboys having played in just five NFL games after going 38th overall in 2011. Injuries played a part in that, as a torn patella tendon in the second preseason game of his career ended his rookie season before it began.
“I tore my patella tendon, and for a lot of people who don’t know what that is, it’s not even close to tearing a MCL, PCL, LCL or meniscus,” he said. “The patella tendon is the strongest tendon in your body, and when I had snapped that, my knee cap was swimming in my thigh.”
If that wasn’t enough, a shoulder injury ended Williams’ 2012 campaign after a mere 58 carries for 164 yards in five games. According to him, though, the shoulder problem was “a blessing in disguise,” as it allowed him to recover more completely from the patella tear.
“I feel like (the shoulder injury) was a blessing from God. I came back from this in what, six months? This is something that helped (the knee injury) heal,” he said.
A quick look at Williams’ stats will shed light on more misfortune in his career – he didn’t play a single snap in 2013, either. It’s logical to expect another injury given his history, but Williams is adamant that wasn’t the case. He wouldn’t elaborate on why first-year coach Bruce Arians opted not to play him in Arizona last season, but he’s certainly ready to showcase how healthy he is.
“I wasn’t close to being hurt. I was healthy. I’m not going to speak my own personal thoughts about it – it is what it is,” he said. “But I always have a chip on my shoulder, even if I’m the starting guy.”
“Right now, it’s kind of like the baby step phase,” he said. “I’ve got to learn a whole new system, and I’ve got to get comfortable in the system – I’ve got to learn pass protections, I’ve got to be a great student of this offense before I can go out there and show what I’m capable of doing.”
If he gets to that point, it’s bound to be a satisfying conclusion for Williams – and one that relates well to Lee’s newest setback.
“It’s just one of those things where sometimes you’ve got to dig down, get healthy, come back out and shut everybody up – prove everybody wrong,” Williams said.