Cornerback Tramon Williams got his first start of the season last weekend in London.
Tramon Williams wanted to play, because who wouldn't?
But he knew when he signed with the Cardinals early in training camp there might not be a lot of reps at cornerback, that Justin Bethel was going to get the chance to be the starter across from Patrick Peterson.
Perhaps that wouldn't have been his first thought when he was in the peak of his career a few years ago, but now, after the Packers let him walk away and after two rough years in Cleveland, perspective was easier to gain.
"You understand the nature of the game," Williams said. "You understand moves are going to be made, especially when the season doesn't go the way you expect it to go. You have to support whoever is in the game. That's what I did.
"I was fully supportive of whoever was in front of me. I never wish bad of anybody in this game because I
know it's tough enough as it is. I gave my support to Pat, to Justin, to whoever was in, because we play one of the toughest positions. You have to put egos to the side."
Williams is a starter now. Bethel's struggles all but forced a change, so after six games Williams found himself paired with Peterson against the Rams last week, doing fairly well, according to his grade from Pro Football Focus. He wasn't beat deep, which had been a problem with Bethel.
His patience paid off.
"I didn't have any animosity toward anyone," Williams said. "I played my role."
The 34-year-old Williams started most of his career in Green Bay. He went to Cleveland – reluctantly – in 2015 for a big free-agent deal after the Packers offered much less. His time with the Browns was difficult as they lost, and he was released this past offseason before the Cardinals brought him in as veteran insurance.
Cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross said it was that experience – Williams won a Super Bowl with the Packers – that made him valuable. Peterson said the same, praising Williams' place in "big moments."
"I won't say it makes it easier for the defensive coordinator to call plays, but it puts a guy out there that we know has been in the fire, that understands if he gets in the dumps, if he gets behind, he knows how to get himself out," Peterson said.
Bethel held on to the starting job through Week 6, but after giving up a late touchdown bomb to Mike Evans
against the Buccaneers, the Cardinals made the switch. Williams joined Peterson in playing all 80 defensive snaps against the Rams; Bethel played 16 special teams snaps but none on defense.
Ross said making a change outside of an injury is difficult not only on the player being replaced but also on the coach and the player coming in. There are egos to consider.
"The bottom line is it is all about production," said Ross, who was an NFL cornerback for 14 years. "It's not what you get, it's what you give up. A guy like Pat Peterson is not going to get a lot because he doesn't get a lot of passes at him. There are going to be balls caught on you, regardless of who you are. You're going to give up a touchdown regardless of who you are. You just can't give them up in volume. That causes situations. You're playing a position where you can't hide. You're not playing A-gaps and B-gaps. You're playing the field."
The same game Bethel gave up the Evans touchdown, Williams used his experience to step in front of Evans near the Tampa goal line, making an interception that set up what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Now he figures to remain in the lineup for good.
"Things don't always play out like you think it should, but I figure as long as you work, the right people see it, your time will come eventually," Williams said.
Images of the team's top receivers through the first seven games