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Problem Solved: Maxx Williams Back On Field For Cardinals

Tight end makes immediate impact after IR stint

TE Maxx Williams scores a touchdown against the Dolphins during a 2020 home game

The coronavirus meant that while he was nursing an ankle injury and spending time on injured reserve, Maxx Williams wasn't around the Cardinals as much as he wanted to be, neither at the Dignity Health Training Center in Tempe or at the games.

He watched the thrilling "Sunday Night Football" win over the Seahawks from his house, "yelling at my TV just like the fans do."

But the veteran tight end was aching to get back on the field to play. Truth be told, the Cardinals needed him to play. Even in a more limited role during Sunday's loss to the Dolphins when Williams finally returned to the lineup, he made his presence felt with several good blocks and a 4-yard touchdown catch.

"It sucks, sitting at home, winning or losing, just feeling so helpless on game days," Williams said Tuesday.

Tight end has historically been a oft-forgotten position with the Cardinals, at least since moving to Arizona, across every coaching staff. Kliff Kingsbury, with his spread concepts, didn't figure to change the equation.

While Williams or Dan Arnold or Darrell Daniels aren't going to be posting Gronk-in-his-prime numbers, Kingsbury has evolved them into a bigger role than first expected. Against the Dolphins, Williams and Daniels were the first Cardinals' tight end duo to catch touchdowns in a game since Nov. 8, 2009, when Anthony Becht and Ben Patrick caught Kurt Warner tosses in a 41-21 win in Chicago.

"We always have a saying in the tight end room that we are problem solvers," Williams said. "Whatever Kliff wants us to be at, where coaches want us to play, special teams, offense, running, pass catching, it doesn't matter. We want to do our part."

Daniels' play was the highlight, an incredible steal of a potential Byron Jones interception in the side of the end zone.

"That's a play he'll always remember and one of those things, as a tight end, we want to show we can go out and make plays," Williams said.

Williams praised the work Daniels and Arnold and others have done in his absence, but the reality is Williams' return is crucial to the offense.

Kingsbury said the Cardinals had Williams on "kind of a pitch count" in his first game back. The idea was to have Williams play 15 or 20 snaps. He ultimately played 34 (of a possible 69.)

"He's a veteran, savvy player, gives us a lot of confidence there at that position, and it was good to have him back out there," Kingsbury said.

Williams arrived as a free agent on a one-year deal as Kingsbury arrived in 2019, and ended up with a two-year contract extension before season's end, showing his worth both catching the ball and anchoring the blocking side of the position.

The ankle got hurt at the outset of training camp, and while he tried to play through it early in the season, eventually he had to shut it down. Williams has been through injuries before – a one-time second round pick of the Ravens, Williams suffered a serious knee injury in 2016 – and even now downplays his importance compared to the rest of the unit before allowing "it's always a good feeling hearing people say that."

"It's more of a team effort," Williams said. "Like I said, we're problem solvers."

It's tough to solve any problems watching his team on TV.

"It's my passion to play football," Williams said. "I love the game. It's tough to sit there knowing my guys are out there playing and I just wanted to be out there with them."