Williams – at bottom of Ravens depth chart – deserves chance to rise

Given the changes at receiver, Demetrius Williams will have to fight for a chance to play

  • Former Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin signed a one-year deal with the Ravens.
Former Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin signed a one-year deal with… (Getty photo )
June 19, 2010|By Peter Schmuck

Sometimes, it's hard to get past the obvious. The Ravens have overhauled their receiver corps, and it has left Demetrius Williams — once the big-play receiver of the future — looking like the odd man out as the team rests up for the opening of training camp next month.

Everybody's all excited about Anquan Boldin and Donte' Stallworth and young David Reed. Williams and Mark Clayton are just so yesterday.

Except that this is the National Football League and there are times when NFL should stand for Nothing's For Long. The team that assumes it is set at any position in midsummer often is the team that's picking through the practice squads in October.

That's why Williams is sitting on a $1.1million contract tender and probably wishing he were an unrestricted free agent right now. He might have fallen the depth chart, but he has talent and experience and — who really knows? — he might just be ready to pop in his second year back after Achilles tendon surgery.

So the Ravens hold on to him, but more as an insurance policy than an investment.

"Guys can always rise," coach John Harbaugh said on the final day of organized team activities. "They can always earn more opportunities."

Of course, that's what a good head coach is supposed to say, but the Ravens should not let one tough postseason play or Williams' injury history stand in the way of discovering what he might have left to offer. If they are going to bring him to camp, there's no reason not to keep an open mind.

The team might not be as desperate for him to succeed as it once was, but he knows what's at stake and where he stands, and what could be a bigger motivation than to finally realize all that unrealized potential?

"I'm at a point in my career where it's make or break," Williams said recently.

That probably goes for most of the players who show up at training camp each year, but he's 27 and he has baggage and he knows it.

So, Williams has spent another offseason adding upper body strength and trying to put himself in a position to succeed, all the while watching the Ravens finally address their receiver situation in a big way. The depth chart appears to start with Boldin and Derrick Mason, then Stallworth, then Clayton and Reed — or vice versa — and Williams.

If that's the way you handicap it, it certainly doesn't look good for Williams, who would figure to get limited repetitions in camp, but it's a long, hot August and a lot can happen. Mason is no spring chicken, and Stallworth had a total of 17receptions the past two years. There has been speculation since the end of last season that Clayton might be traded to relieve the receiver surplus.

No, it doesn't look good, but this is the NFL and it only takes a couple of grouchy hamstrings to scramble the depth chart.

Williams hears all this and basically waves it off. He doesn't want to win a job by attrition. He doesn't want to stand on the sideline in Westminster waiting for someone to get hurt. He wants to be the player he started out to be, and he sees the window of opportunity closing fast.

"They went out and got other receivers because they felt a need for other receivers," he said. "I guess the confidence in me is not too strong."

Maybe not, but the Ravens would not have tendered that contract if they did not think he still has value. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said recently that Williams has looked better than ever during offseason workouts, but the conversation always comes back to his health.

There is only one way for the team or Williams to realize that value. He has to get onto the field and show the coaching staff that he is bigger and faster and more determined than he has been at any previous time in his star-crossed Ravens career.

He needs one more chance to prove that he's durable enough and talented enough to erase whatever preconceived notions the coaching staff or the fans have attached to him.

What, really, have the Ravens got to lose?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) on Fridays and Saturdays at noon and with Brett Hollander on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6. Also, check out his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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