When Ryan Williams returned from his grandfather’s funeral in Virginia early last week, offensive coordinator Mike Miller was waiting for him with a gift.
It was a football.
He told Williams to hold it, to walk around with it, to keep it off the ground.
Just a couple days earlier, Williams nearly fumbled away the Cardinals’ upset of the New England Patriots. Now Miller was telling him to hold a football so much it’d become second nature, almost a part of him.
So, Williams did. Every day after practice last week, he ran on the treadmill for 15 to 20 minutes carrying the football, alternating hands every two minutes.
“I was creating a habit,” Williams said. “A good habit.”
The extra work paid off Sunday against the Eagles. He led the Cardinals with 83 yards rushing on 13 carries in a 27-6 win, and he didn’t lose the football. Not once. Not even a bobble.
“Ryan’s a great player and even great players have bad things happen,” linebacker
Acho was one of about 10 players to pull Williams aside after the Patriots game and throughout the week, and tell the second-year back to keep his head up. Sitting at his locker Sunday, Acho said Williams had two choices. He could’ve kept his head down all week or he could’ve used the fumble as a learning tool to improve.
Williams didn’t need to give his teammates a verbal answer. His 62 yards on seven carries in the fourth quarter to close out the Eagles’ win proved where William’s head was.
“Man, did he do a good job there at the end,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “This is what we’ve seen from Ryan since training camp last year. It’s good after last week and what happened in the New England game to see him bounce back and play with that confidence.”
In the locker room at New England, a teammate pulled Williams aside. He talked about knowing how Williams felt, about leaving the past in the past and moving forward.
“He was just like, ‘Hey, how you think I feel? You come out, your home fans boo you,’” said Williams, still in uniform standing in the middle of the Cardinals’ locker room. “He was like, ‘They pay you so much (and) you can’t make the plays that they want you to make. How you think I feel? You want to know how I felt after the first game when we won that game against Seattle? I felt good.’ He was like, ‘Nobody (is) second guessing what you do.’
“It’s going to stick with me every day just for the simple fact that I’m not the only one who’s been through it.”
Williams will get back on that treadmill Monday, football cradled in his arms and run. He’ll go faster this week, looking forward, making sure he doesn’t drop that football.