Arizona Cardinals: Ryan Williams

TEMPE, Ariz. – Running back Ryan Williams arrived at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility for a 6 a.m. workout on Monday.

He got treatment, went over his playbook, took a nap in the training room and was hanging out with teammates when he said he was summoned upstairs to the office of Mike Disner, Arizona’s director of football operations and salary-cap guru.

A few minutes later Williams’ injury-riddled and tumultuous tenure with the Cardinals was over. He shook hands with coaches and management then went back downstairs to say goodbye to his teammates.

The first three years of his career, expected to be promising after he was drafted in 2011 in the second round out of Virginia Tech, did not go his way.

“This release was like seeing Bigfoot,” Williams said. “It was so unexpected. I didn’t see it coming at all. I had meetings with coaches after the season and I was told something totally different than what happened [Monday]. Quite frankly, I don’t like being told something that doesn’t happen. We’re all men and we should all be able to keep our word at the end of the day. It is what it is.

“All in all at the end of the day I do know this is a business, but some things since the beginning of my career could’ve been handled a lot differently.”

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinIt's safe to say that Ryan Williams was stunned after being cut by Arizona on Monday. "This release was like seeing Bigfoot," he said.
The Cardinals were not available for comment.

Just two games into his rookie preseason, Williams ruptured his patellar tendon and missed all of 2011. Then five games into 2012, Williams took a hit to the shoulder at St. Louis and missed the rest of that season. To him, the shoulder injury was a blessing in disguise. He felt the Cardinals rushed him back during the 2012 preseason. Williams said he returned to the field at around 80 percent, and was running “timid.”

“My second year I should not have been out there,” Williams said. “My trainers know it, people on the team know it.

“You can’t run scared, you’re bound to hurt something else. I’m lucky I hurt my shoulder instead of hurting my knee again.”

With almost 10 months between his shoulder injury at the start of training camp in 2013, Williams had enough time for his body to heal. In the meantime, Ken Whisenhunt was fired and Bruce Arians, also a Virginia Tech product, was hired. It seemed like Williams had an ally at the highest position.

But the spring of 2013 was, unbeknownst to him, the beginning of the end of his Cardinals’ career. Williams began experiencing pain and inflammation in the “fatty pad” under the patellar tendon in his right knee. He said he had two MRIs between that spring and training camp. Williams said after reading the MRIs the Cardinals told him there wasn’t anything wrong with his knee. The inflammation and pain persisted and Williams had flashbacks to 2012.

About a week into training camp, he pulled himself out of practice.

“I had to take myself out and stop practicing because it was something that I felt could’ve hurt me more if I was out there running timid again,” he said.

It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to dangle his roster spot, Williams said. Then the trade rumors began. Knowing he needed to return to the field soon, Williams said he resorted to injections. First was cortisone shots, he said, but they didn’t work. Then Williams said he tried plasma injections and eventually nova cane.

He returned to practice Aug. 22, a few days before Arizona hosted San Diego in the third preseason game. Earlier that week, Williams said he was injected with eight shots in one day. Against the Chargers, he carried twice for 10 yards.

Five days later, Arizona traveled to Denver for the final preseason game. With his knee still bothering him, Williams had nine carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.

“I managed to do what we were complaining about not being able to do and that was running the ball in the red zone,” Williams said. “In my mind, I’m thinking ‘Woo hoo, I come in and do what we’ve been complaining about.’”

To Williams, scoring the first rushing touchdown inside the red zone during the preseason meant he had done what the coaches were asking of the unit. And to him, that meant playing time.

“Come St. Louis [in Week 1] I’m inactive. So I just figured I’m inactive because I didn’t really play that much in preseason, so my time was coming,” Williams said.

Williams continued to be a regular on the inactive list. Then in Week 8, Williams thought there was hope. Starting running back Rashard Mendenhall was out because of a toe injury. Williams asked if he was dressing against Atlanta and he was told he wasn’t.

“That was probably the most confused I was all of last season,” Williams said.

Williams again thought he had a chance to play in Week 13 at Philadelphia when Andre Ellington was out with a knee injury.

“I asked if I was going to dress out and I was told, ‘I don’t know.’” Williams said. “And I knew that meant no. So, you know, I just took that as I’m fighting a business right now. It has nothing to do with my ability on the football field because I showed these guys every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday what I’m capable of doing. And what I was doing out there, not to toot my own horn, it was filthy. It was filthy and I was back. And everybody knew I was back.

“But it just didn’t work out, so I looked at it as next year’s my year.”

He never dressed or saw the field in 2013.

“I was more than unaware that my last year was going to end up being like that,” he said. “That’s really it. I was unaware that that was going to happen. I was told different things. It’s a business. You can be told millions of things and you can come in the building just like this situation, you can be told something that’s totally different.”

Publically last season, Arians said Williams' lack of special-teams experience was a reason the running back didn't get on the field. Arians was consistent that he wanted his players to contribute to as many phases as possible. And since Williams didn't make any of the special-teams units because he missed so much time in training camp, he didn't fit a need for the Cardinals.

"Just as well anybody else knows, there isn’t anybody on a football team that can’t play special teams," Williams said. "Who can’t play an effort phase? Because that’s all special teams is -- it’s effort. ... I was very frustrated but I kept to myself and kept my head down because I knew my time was coming. That’s all I could do.”

Williams said he began working out again in mid-March, the same month he fired former agent Malik Shareef and signed with Eugene Parker.

“I felt agentless when I had an agent,” Williams said. “I felt like there was nobody fighting for me, nobody trying to figure out what was going on. I felt like I had to do a lot of the dirty work myself.

“All of last year there wasn’t not one word of my agent coming back to me with information of why I wasn’t playing or what was going on. And that’s what I feel like you’re paying these dudes to do these things. So, you know, when it’s time for your agents to get an invoice, ‘Oh yeah, we need that invoice.’ You don’t just get an invoice for just chillin. That’s what it ultimately came down to.”

Having cleared waivers this week, Williams is free to be signed by another team. But he said he doesn’t think of his career so far as a bust.

“I feel like a bust is somebody who is given a fair opportunity to perform at their best,” he said. “I can’t get away from the fact that I had one of the worst knee injuries in my second preseason game of my rookie year. With that being said, it’s not many people out there that’s had this injury that runs like me and had been able to come back like I had. That's just kudos to how hard I worked and the determination that I got to be back.

“And when I’m given the opportunity to do it I know I can shut everybody up. I’m not worried about it.”
Some of the least surprising news of the offseason landed in my inbox Monday.

The Cardinals announced that they had cut running back Ryan Williams today, along with tight end Brett Brackett, center John Estes and linebacker Kenny Rowe.

Can't say I didn't see it coming. At some point this offseason, the Cardinals were going to part ways with Williams, the second-round pick from 2011 whose career was hampered by injuries. They're saving $1 million in salary, $1.057 million in cap space and will only be charged with about $535,000 in dead money, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Injuries are a part of the game and they have defined Williams' career. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp his rookie year then a shoulder injury five games into 2012 that ended his season.

But what signaled the beginning of the end of Williams' tenure with the Cardinals was last training camp. Williams all but took himself out of contention for playing time when he couldn't practice because the "fatty pad" under one of his knee caps was hurting him. It didn't help that last year was Bruce Arians' first training camp.

Arians wants players to contribute to as many facets of the Cardinals as possible, so when Williams wasn't competing for a spot on special teams, his chances of seeing the field dwindled. And kept dwindling.

He was inactive for all 16 games in 2013, not even dressing when Rashard Mendenhall was injured. That should've been the writing on the wall. Even down a running back, Arians didn't trust Williams enough to make him an option. Arians was in Williams' corner when he first arrived in Arizona because the two shared a Virginia Tech bond. But Arians also had a team to run and Williams wasn't doing anything to contribute to its success.

Williams had a chance to make inroads toward playing time in 2014 when Mendenhall retired in March but the front office clearly didn't see what they liked out of him during the start of offseason workouts.

This was the year Williams could've earned playing time, but that chance is over.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- This morning kicked off the start of the Cardinals’ 2014 season with first day of offseason conditioning.

Throughout the weekend, Cardinals new and old announced their trips back to the desert on Twitter to begin training under new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris and new speed coach Roger Kingdom.

Here are a few injury-related storylines to follow while conditioning gets underway:

Jonathan Cooper’s leg: As Cooper goes through déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, the Cardinals will get their first look at how well his leg has healed from the preseason injury that kept Cooper out of his entire rookie season. He’s had eight months to heal and recover, so it’s time for Cooper to test it with some serious conditioning.

Antonio Cromartie’s hip: There was no question that Cromartie’s hip impacted his 2013 season but he’s claimed throughout the offseason that it’s fine. We’ll see just how fine it is when Kingdom gets his hands on Cromartie. How he does during the next few weeks will be telling because if he’s healthy, he’ll get a lot of reps during OTAs and minicamp. If he’s not, he’ll be watching from the sideline in order to prepare for training camp.

Jared Veldheer’s triceps: Even though Veldheer played the final five games of 2013 for the Oakland Raiders after suffering a torn left triceps during training camp last season, how well he’s recovered will be evident by how well he performs during offseason workouts. Arizona invested a good sum of money into the 26-year-old and the return on investment will start showing this week.

Ryan Williams’ knee: Monday marks the start of the most important stretch of Williams’ career. If his knee is healthy and can stay that way, Williams may have a chance at making the roster in 2014. But any setback during the offseason will put his roster spot in jeopardy for training camp.
Monday marks the start of the Arizona Cardinals' offseason conditioning program under new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.

They’ll see two new faces in the weight room this year in Morris, who has a long history with Bruce Arians from their days together in Cleveland and sharing a facility in Pittsburgh, and Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, who was hired as the Cards’ speed coach.

But for 17 players, the start of conditioning doesn’t just mark the first organized activity for the Cardinals since they lost to San Francisco, 23-20, on Dec. 29. It means they can start earning their offseason workout bonuses. While 100 percent participation usually isn’t required, teams typically mandate that players participate in 80-90 percent of the team’s offseason workouts.

The largest workout bonus that can be earned this offseason is $250,000 each by quarterback Drew Stanton, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

The list of potential workout bonuses:

With the Arizona Cardinals' remaining cap space steady the last couple of weeks, it’s a good time to look at who’s taking up the largest portion of the Cardinals’ cap space. According to the most recent numbers by ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona’s cap space this week is $4,522,983, which changed slightly from last week because of the release of LaRon Byrd and Dan Giordano.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- On the balance sheet, the Arizona Cardinals are even when it comes to running backs.

They lost two this offseason when they didn't re-sign either unrestricted free agent Rashard Mendenhall or restricted free agent Alfonso Smith. But they gained two, signing Jonathan Dwyer last week and Robert Hughes to a futures contract.

The two they lost were better than the two they gained, although it's ironic that Dwyer is replacing Mendenhall for the second time in their careers. Dwyer filled in for Mendenhall when the latter tore his ACL at the end of the 2011 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With Arizona's decision Tuesday to not re-sign Smith, it means that Dwyer will have more of a role on third down. But it also means that, as of Tuesday, Ryan Williams will have a chance to make the roster.

That can easily change if the Cardinals pick up a running back or two throughout free agency and the draft, but as the third or fourth best back in the room, Williams' future with the Cards is looking bright. But, as I said, that's as of today.

If Williams hadn't reinjured his knew last training camp, it's unlikely Smith would've been on the roster. He struggled to pick up the offense despite having a strong preseason.

It's clear that head coach Bruce Arians wants to ride out Andre Ellington as his primary rusher with Stepfan Taylor as the second option. From there, however, the third and fourth backs are still to be decided. It's likely Dwyer will enter training camp with the upper hand because of his relationship with Arians.

But depending on who the Cardinals draft or if they sign anyone else, the four main backs on the roster -- Ellington, Taylor, Dwyer and Williams -- may be the four you'll watch during the season.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Welcome to #CardsMailbag, a weekly installment that allows you to ask Josh Weinfuss questions throughout the week via Twitter @joshweinfuss. He'll answer them every week during the offseason. Make sure to use the hash tag: #CardsMailbag

TEMPE, Ariz. – Ryan Williams may have to wait until next year to get on the field for the Arizona Cardinals.

His best bet to crack the rotation this season was to be a multi-dimensional player, meaning Williams would’ve had to play on special teams, as well. A knee injury during training camp forced him off the field and didn’t allow Williams the opportunity to prove to coach Bruce Arians that he could be valuable to Arizona at more than running back. It ultimately cost him the season.

Williams has been inactive for all 11 games this year and running backs coach Stump Mitchell doesn’t see an opportunity, barring injury, for Williams to crack the rotation.

“We’re really only going to play two or three guys unless that back is a major part of special teams,” Mitchell said. “And at this point, we can’t experiment on special teams. Had he been able to [practice], he may have had the opportunity to be up. If he’s up he has the opportunity to be in the ball games.

“He’ll have that opportunity again next year.”

Williams said he was part of the special-teams package before the knee started bothering him again, but understands what Mitchell said.

“As of now, since we got a lot of capable running back, I would say it hurt my chances because the majority of everybody on the team does special teams,” Williams said.

He’s not frustrated, instead just waiting his turn.

“Just like B.A. said at the beginning of the season, everybody has a role on this team,” Williams said. “And I think I figured my role out, and that’s it, I’m just going to continue to work hard.

What is that role?

“Be the best player I can be for this team. Point blank.”

3 things to watch for against Atlanta

October, 27, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday’s game against Atlanta is chock full of storylines. There’s John Abraham's first game against his old team, Rashard Mendenhall's team, the Cardinals getting back to .500. Here are three other storylines to keep an eye on during the game.

1. Bobby Massie could finally play: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hinted toward the second-year right tackle seeing the field on Monday but he reaffirmed the possibility on Friday. But there hasn’t been a discussion with either Massie or starting right tackle Eric Winston.

Arians said Massie would see the field for at least a series.

“We’re hoping,” Arians said. “We’ll see how the game goes. I’d like to get him in and get some action. He’s looked good for the past couple weeks.”

2. Wanted: Fast Starts: All week, the Cardinals talked about getting off to a fast start against the Falcons. It’s happened just once this season, when Arizona scored a touchdown on its first drive in New Orleans. We all know what happened after that.

Arians said he asked each guy to change whatever they do between the Cards’ 11 a.m. walkthrough on Saturday to kickoff. Time will only tell if that works

Quarterback Carson Palmer said fast starts will come if the Cardinals are error-free on the first 15-30 plays, which are scripted.

3. Active or inactive?: It’s a game that’s been played in the press box all season. Will running back Ryan Williams be activated to play or not. It hasn’t happened yet and with starter Rashard Mendenhall likely not playing, the Cardinals are left with three running backs, two of which – rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor – will handle the majority of the workload.

Arians said the decision to activate Williams will be a game-time decision. And even if he dresses, the question becomes, will Williams get to play?

#CardsMailbag: Week 8 vs. Falcons

October, 26, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. -- How Rashard Mendenhall's toe feels Sunday morning will determine what the Arizona Cardinals' running back corps will look like against the Atlanta Falcons at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Mendenhall, who didn't practice at all this week because of lingering turf toe, was listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report. If he can't play Sunday, rookie Andre Ellington will get the start, Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. Fellow rookie Stepfan Taylor will be the Cardinals' second option at running back.

Arians has said all season that Ellington isn't big enough to shoulder a full-time load at running back, and the coach won't treat Sunday any differently if the Clemson product starts.

"I look at him the same way and it's still situational," Arians said. "We'll monitor how many times he carries it."

Ellington says he's capable of carrying the ball for a full game. In the past two games, Ellington has played more snaps than Mendenhall, but Mendenhall has been Arizona's primary option running the ball.

Through seven games, Mendenhall has 92 carries for 281 yards, a 3.1 yards-per-carry average. Ellington, however, has 179 yards on 28 carries, a 6.4 yards-per-carry average.

But the numbers don't mean anything to Ellington. He wants the ball all game.

"Until the clock says zero in the fourth quarter," he said. "I don't have a set number. I just go out there and play ball. If you start thinking about those things, then you limit your skills."

If Mendenhall can't play, the Cardinals would be left with three running backs unless Ryan Williams is activated for the first time this season. That will be a game-time decision, Arians said, based on who else is injured.

Arians has said Williams' lack of special teams experience hurts his chance to get on the field, but the running back said that's easily correctable.

"I believe that special teams is an effort phase and I do believe a lot of people can play special teams, all you have to do is put forth the effort and get the scheme down right," Williams said. "But if that's what's keeping me off the field, then I guess that's what's keeping me off the field. Man. I don't know, man.

"I have no answers for anything. I don't know. I don't know what’s going to happen this Sunday or anything of that sort. I didn't even know if it was going to be a GTD [game-time decision]."

Williams continues to work through his reps at practice, preparing as if he'll play every week. He hasn't heard yet if there's a chance he'll be activated for Sunday, and he hasn't talked to Arians about it.

But Williams know his legs and body have benefited from not playing through seven games.

"I'm probably the freshest guy on the team right now," Williams said. "I'm ready to play. I'm just waiting. It's a waiting game right now."

#CardsMailbag: Week 7 vs. Seahawks

October, 16, 2013
Welcome to #CardsMailbag, a weekly installment that allows you to ask Josh Weinfuss questions throughout the week via Twitter @joshweinfuss. He'll answer them every Friday (except this week because of short week leading to Thursday night's game). Make sure to use this hashtag: #CardsMailbag.

Flush the Pocket will be your daily morning dose of the Arizona Cardinals. It’ll recap the top storyline from the previous day and give you a look at what everyone is saying locally and nationally.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- On one side of University of Phoenix Stadium will be the mentor, the coach who made Carson Palmer into a Heisman Trophy winner and then the top pick in the 2003 NFL draft.

On the other side will be the mentee, the quarterback whose career hasn’t reflected his college success under Pete Carroll at Southern California, taking him to three teams in the past four seasons.

Thursday will be the first time Palmer, the Cardinals quarterback, will face his college coach, Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks coach, but the quarterback isn’t concerned with who’s on the sideline.

“I don’t really think of it as a battle between he and I,” Palmer said. “I’m looking at them defensively. Just knowing he’s a great coach and knowing he’s a great motivator, he’ll have his guys ready to go.”

On Tuesday, when Carroll spoke to the Arizona media, it was hard for him to not play the fatherly figure role of a former coach. Carroll talked about Palmer’s past issues playing in Cincinnati and Oakland.

“I think this is an obvious switch for him that’s extraordinary,” Carroll said. “He has terrific players around him. He has a good coach who knows how to handle him and a neat franchise that is looking for big things.

“I think it’s a great time for him. I’m excited about playing against him and preparing for him. I love watching him play. I’ve always watched him throughout the years and now I get a chance to go against him. It’s going to be a fun competition.”

Kent Somers of writes about how Ryan Williams is handling not playing this season.

Somers and Bob McManaman of write about how Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t talk much on the field.

Craig Morgan of grades the Cardinals’ 2013 draft class through six games.

Mike Pereira of explains the confusion around the three personal fouls that offset each other during Sunday’s Cards-49ers game.

Doug Farrar of breaks down what kind of impact Tyrann Mathieu has had on the field.

Darren Urban of writes about Karlos Dansby being a happy man.
This much we knew about the Arizona Cardinals' running game heading into Sunday’s season opener at St. Louis: Rashard Mendenhall is the starter.

After that? It was anybody’s guess.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians helped sort out the four-man “committee” waiting on the sideline by announcing that in most situations, Alfonso Smith will “probably be our next guy.”

That’s as much a testament to Arians’ faith in the oft-injured Ryan Williams as it is to Smith’s perseverance. He’s been cut three times in four years, during which time he bounced between the Cardinals’ 53-man roster and the practice squad. At the start of minicamp and OTAs, Smith wasn’t expected to make it through final cuts. But he impressed during training camp and developed a reputation as a punishing pass-blocker.

“There were a lot of linebackers and DBs that quit rushing him in training camp when we had pads on,” Arians said. “There were serious blows. He brings it and that’s what I like about him.”

That leaves rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor, and Williams, awaiting their call. Ellington and Taylor have roles on special teams, but how many running backs Arians dresses on Sunday will be telling.

“It’s a blessing, man, just to be able to be on the active roster starting off and to get an opportunity to be the backup, so I’m going to be excited,” Smith said. “I’m going to be pumped up.”

In other news:
  • Arians said he will use three kick returners in St. Louis, although there are five or six possibilities.
  • The number of offensive linemen the Cardinals dress against the Rams will be a game-time decision, Arians said. He’s thrown around seven throughout training camp, but that could change with the injury to rookie guard Jonathan Cooper. If it’s seven, look for Nate Potter and Mike Gibson, in addition to the front five, because of their ability to combine to work at all five spots. If it’s eight, look for Bobby Massie to dress.
  • Arians said he thought Denver quarterback Peyton Manning’s seven-touchdown outing Thursday night against Baltimore was "outstanding." Arians, who was Manning's quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis in 1998-2000, said, "It was one of those ones that you dream about when you’re young, you know seven touchdowns in a game, especially against the Ravens, which is a great defensive football team. So that was really, really special."

Arians: Ryan Williams appearing safe

August, 30, 2013
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters the team tentatively plans to keep five running backs on its initial 53-man roster, including Ryan Williams.

Teams have until Saturday to reduce their rosters from the current 75-man limit to the 53-man limit for the regular season.

Williams, who ran more effectively than his mediocre stats indicated Thursday night, has been fighting through injuries to justify a roster spot.

The Cardinals used a 2011 second-round pick on Williams and had high expectations for him before a torn patella tendon ended Williams' rookie season in August of that year. Williams hasn't been able to stay on the field consistently since then. He took a step forward Thursday night in the preseason finale at Denver.

Arizona's plans at running back could evolve between now and the cutdown date Saturday, but for now, Williams' roster status appears secure.

In other news, Arians said veteran tight end Jeff King would undergo knee surgery Friday. Injuries are severely affecting depth at that position. Starter Rob Housler has a high-ankle sprain and might not be ready for the regular-season opener at St. Louis -- a concern for the Cardinals, who plan to use two tight ends extensively under Arians.