When the Ravens get together Thursday for their first full-team practice of training camp, Cary Williams knows exactly where he’s going to be, and it’s certainly not on the sideline with his helmet in hand.
“I plan on just going right out there with the guys,” said Williams who started all 18 games for the Ravens at cornerback last year and was one of the team’s most pleasant surprises. “I don’t expect to take any days off unless they tell me that’s what I need to do. As far as I’m concerned, I’m full go.”
Williams’ status for training camp was initially in doubt after the 27-year-old underwent surgery in February to repair a torn labrum in his right hip, an injury that he sustained in a Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks but played through for the rest of the season.
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While he attended all the organized team activities, Williams did very little in terms of the on-field drills, spending much of the workouts observing from the sideline. However, he expects that to change this week, starting today when Williams planned to take the running and conditioning test that will be one of his final hurtles on his return.
“I trust it,” Williams said Saturday night while appearing at a benefit for the Special Olympics of Maryland also attended by quarterback Joe Flacco and rookies Gino Gradkowski and Christian Thompson. “I think the difference between now and mini-camp is that it really was hurting in mini-camp in certain areas. I tried to get out there and run, but I couldn't get full extension and then it hurt when I was running around. Right now, I don't feel any of that."
Williams also isn’t worried about the psychological impact of returning from the injury.
“I'm past that hurdle,” he said. “Maybe during mini-camp, it was one of those things where it was in my head that it was still hurting and it wasn't 100 percent. Right now, I can do anything that everybody else can do. I've been working it hard trying to get it back and I think I'm going to be ahead of schedule."
This is a huge training camp for Williams who will need to hold off second-year player Jimmy Smith, a first-round pick in 2011, for the starting cornerback job opposite Lardarius Webb.
Williams, who was the Ravens picked up during the 2009 season after he was let go by the Tennessee Titans, did more than hold up in his first season as a starting cornerback. While he had no interceptions, he was third on the team with 77 tackles and second on the team with 18 passes defended. He also forced two fumbles.
However, he’s expected to be significantly challenged by Smith who had an uneven rookie campaign that started with him sustaining an ankle injury while covering the first kickoff of the season. Smith missed four games with a high ankle sprain, but he finished the season strong and recorded three interceptions over his final nine games.
Smith shed some weight this offseason to better match up with some of the league’s faster receivers, and he appears primed for a strong training camp.
"Jimmy's a great corner. We expect to battle it out camp time,” Williams said. “The great thing about it is that we care about each other. We love each other. We hang together. We're both great teammates. We wish the best for each other. I wish him the best in everything that he does. You want to see a guy go out there and be successful.
“Regardless of what's the outcome of the battle and who is No. 1 and who is No, 2, we're going to try to duplicate wins from last season and we're going to try to win as many games as possible. That's the whole point, to win games and to be a great teammate in the process. I think we both understand that and we're both going to go out there and do our best for the Baltimore Ravens in any way possible."
Williams is also excited that a familiar face will remain in the Ravens’ secondary. That unit took an offseason bonding trip to Las Vegas and it was there when Williams knew that safety Ed Reed would return for another season.
“I didn't want to tell anybody, but I knew whatever Ed was going to do at the time,” Williams said. “I think we've got a great group. We need him. He's Ed Reed, you know. That's just him. We know that sometimes he can be a little difficult at times in people's eyes, but in my opinion, I think Ed was doing what he needed to do. Big ups to him. I'm glad he's coming back."
More than anything though, Williams is just glad that another training camp is about to start. After months of rehabbing his hip and wondering whether he’d be ready for camp, all the doubt has been replaced by anticipation.
"I'm very excited, man,” he said. “It's been a long time coming. It feels like the offseason is long because I took a couple of months off working on my rehab and trying to get the leg back. It's just frustrating, but it's all worth it. Hopefully, I come out and duplicate what I did last year.”