Rarely, if ever, is it a good thing when an athlete gets injured. Not only are they unable to compete and help their team for the time they are out, but the rehabilitation process can often be arduous and downright painful. But when playing football, getting injured is almost synonymous with playing the game itself.
So when Arizona Cardinals running back Ryan Williams tore his patella tendon in a preseason game against the Packers prior to the 2011 season, he, his coaches and Cardinals fans were devastated. The rehab time for an injury of that magnitude typically takes 9-12 months... and that's for people that don't take blows to their body for a living.
We would have understood had Williams come back and been a bit hesitant to start hitting holes once again. The fear of having a huge injury like that reoccur weighs heavily on one's mind for a while. But that doesn't seem to be the case for Williams.
Already at training camp, Williams has shown everyone why he was worthy of the second round pick he was selected with in the 2011 NFL Draft. His speed, vision and overall competitive nature are things that are desired in any running back. What Williams provides us with that not everyone seems to have is a high level of maturity.
"I feel like I've grown as a man," Williams told reporters at training camp in Flagstaff. "I've learned a lot of things about myself and what goes on as far as the business aspect of the NFL. I've learned a lot. I feel like I had a lot of time to myself to really just sit back and just think. I feel like I became a better man over the year."
The patience and work ethic required for a player to return to action after sustaining a year long injury is something that is often overlooked. Not being able to just get up and run as he was accustomed to was something that he had to overcome and it made him a better person for it.
Now that he is back, Williams just has to find a level of comfort. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt, according to Williams himself, has left much of the decision making up to Williams. If he feels he is ready to get on the field by Sunday (when the Cardinals play the Saints in the Hall of Fame game), then he will play. At this point, with the attitude Williams has, there is no reason to suspect that he won't.
"It's kind of my decision, when it comes down to it. They (the Cardinals coaching staff) gave me the privilege to tell them if I'm not that comfortable... It's not 'hey Coach Whiz, I'm not playing'. It's something that I can talk to him one-on-one about and I think they'll trust my word. We have that type of relationship," Williams said.
The Cardinals have no intentions of rushing him back, either. They may be thin at the running back position right now, especially with Beanie Wells still sidelined, but preseason games are not of high importance. Staying healthy until the games actually mean something is the top priority. Williams knows that and he expects to be ready by the time the regular season commences.
"I'm not even worried about (being ready for) the beginning of the season," Williams said. "I've still got a little bit over a month left. I'm not even worried about that."
With everything Williams has shown the organization and his teammates so far, there is no doubting that he is going to be a special young player. Both as a running back and as a human being, he is the type of person that just seems to excel.
So expect Williams to be suited up and ready to go come week one when the Cardinals take on the Seattle Seahawks. He has worked too hard, both over the past year in his rehabilitation and throughout his entire life in becoming a man, not to be ready for such a great moment.