Former Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin signed a one-year deal with… (Getty photo )
Demetrius Williams chooses his words carefully now, even in his scattered moments of success with the Ravens. It's the price he pays for failing to meet expectations thrust on him in 2006, when he dawned on their horizon as a potential big-play receiver.
Williams is still dealing with unmet expectations, still trying to redirect the traffic accident of a career he has forged in Baltimore, four years later.
When the Ravens reassemble in Westminster for training camp on July 26, the 27-year-old former Oregon star will be almost an afterthought in the team's new passing game. The additions of Anquan Boldin, Donte' Stallworth and David Reed signal the start of a new era at wide receiver.
By his own admission, Williams will be simply trying to make the team. By now, though, he has grown accustomed to the idea.
"At the end of the season, I always feel like I don't have a job," he said. "That's the nature of the game. This year more so. I'm not afraid of it; it's something I can deal with. I'd just like to be told straight up that I am or am not good enough to play here."
Speculation about Williams' job security has been rampant since he reacted poorly to a fourth-down pass in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts last January.
When the team's final passing camp of the offseason closed down 10 days ago, Williams was nowhere to be found. He left the four-day camp two days early, allegedly in frustration over not getting more plays in practice.
"I wouldn't say I was frustrated," he said. "I did my work [in camp]. I had things I had to take care of."
Was he upset over the lack of practice plays?
"I would've loved to get more reps," he said. "That's just the way it was."
Williams had the skills out of Oregon to become the deep threat the Ravens lacked. He brought speed, a big frame (6-feet-2), long arms and soft hands. But the same issue that dropped him from the second round to the fourth – durability – came back to haunt him in Baltimore.
A chronic two-year ankle injury cost him 19 games with the Ravens between 2007 and 2008. Since the switch to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's system two years ago, Williams has played a losing game of catchup.
Surgery solved the ankle problem, but even then, Williams had a hard time getting on the field last season. He was last on the depth chart behind Derrick Mason, Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington.
Nevertheless, Cameron saw some promising signs again this summer.
"When he's been here this offseason, he's looked the best that he's looked," Cameron said. "He's just got to stay healthy. He wasn't here the last couple days, but he's working hard. That's the important thing."
Williams is enough of a realist to know he faces an uphill battle this summer. Asked where he stands with the team, he gives a frank answer: "To be honest, I really don't know. I'm just trying to figure it out."
Give him credit for this, though. Williams has pointed no fingers of blame at anyone for his lack of success. He said he doesn't even complain to family members.
But he will draw the line when the subject turns to his injury-prone reputation. He played 13 of the team's 16 regular season games last year and was active for the other three. He said he didn't miss practices, either.
"The biggest thing is, I'm trying to get rid of the label that I'm a guy who's always hurt," Williams said. "I don't feel that I've had more nicks and bruises [than other players]. My [ankle] injury lasted two years. I had surgery, did what I had to do, and I wasn't hurt all last year.
"I'm tired of everybody saying, 'Oh, he's hurt, he can't play.'"
Last offseason he dutifully added muscle mass to his sprinter's build and pushed his weight over 200.
"Coach [John] Harbaugh made me realize the value of getting stronger," Williams said. "It was the hardest I've worked in the offseason. I worked equally hard this offseason. I always want to stay positive."
This summer, Williams said he participated in the goal of 85 percent of the team's workouts and that only Stallworth attended more among receivers..
Whatever Williams lost when he missed the fourth-down pass in Indianapolis last January – the trust of his coaches, the support of fans – he has perhaps one last chance to make it right in camp this summer.
"That play's been held against me," he said. "At the end of the year, it was something that was in the minds of fans and coaches. Everybody wants to say I got an opportunity, but it's hard for a guy to go in the game when he's done nothing for 3 1/2 quarters and go make a play. …
"The play wasn't made. I'm a hard grader on myself. At the end of the day, I should've made the play. But I don't think that was the make-or-break play that game. It [the loss] was a combination of things as a team."
Through it all, Williams, a West Coast guy, wants to remain with the Ravens.