Rookie receiver Demetrius Williams has spent the past three days with his family in Brentwood, Calif. He will soon begin offseason workouts, traveling back and forth between the West and East coasts.
This offseason will be vital for Williams. At the end of the season, he finally gave the Ravens the vertical threat they have been missing for years.
Now, it's just a matter of becoming bigger and stronger and improving on the techniques he learned last season.
"I started last season at 195 pounds, and ended up at 188," said Williams, the Ravens' fourth-round draft pick out of Oregon. "I've got to gain more weight, got to get stronger. Unlike college, the defensive backs in the pros are as fast as you, even faster. One of the things I've learned is that you have to be professional, learn how to handle yourself. You need to learn the things that will take your game to the next level."
There were glimpses of Williams' ability in minicamps last spring and during training camp. He began the regular season behind starters Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, and was even behind backups Clarence Moore and Devard Darling. But Williams started to emerge toward the end of the season. It wasn't just his speed that made a difference, but also the burst in gaining separation from defensive backs a second or two before the ball arrived.
Williams finished with 22 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns. That's 18 yards per reception, the best on the team and well above the Ravens' average of 10.8. The offense might have been more productive if Williams had flourished earlier. He could have worked the vertical game, and Mason, Clayton and tight end Todd Heap the underneath stuff.
It's a good plan for the future, but Williams has to get better in the offseason. Right now, it's all talk.
"The opportunity is there, and I appreciate it, but there is an X factor," Williams said. "A lot of people say they could do this, or they could do that. I've got a ways to go before I get on the level of a Derrick Mason or a Todd Heap, cornerstone guys that teams can build around."
Williams seems willing to put in the time. He has hired a personal trainer when he visits his family on the West Coast, but he'll spend a lot of time around the Ravens' training facility once quarterbacks Steve McNair and Kyle Boller begin offseason workouts.
After the Ravens drafted him last April, Williams said he spent a lot of time studying the playbook and trying to improve his speed. That won't happen this time around. He wants to work on improving eye-hand coordination and simply catching the ball.
"This time it's all about running routes and catching the ball," Williams said. "I had a friend who once told me that whatever is your craft, perfect it. It's no good for me to spend six hours a day in the weight room and only two hours a day, twice a week, catching the ball. You've got to put yourself in football situations as well, working on catching low balls, or anything else that will help improve your game."
Williams got a lot of tips during the regular season from Mason and receivers coach Mike Johnson. He also got a lot of help from two Pro Bowl teammates, cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle. The on-the-job training started Day One.
The first route Williams ran in practice ended with Rolle intercepting the pass. It was an eye-opening experience for Williams, because those veteran cornerbacks repeatedly jumped his routes. That's when the teaching began.
"It was little things, like how I would lean to one side before I ran the post pattern, or how I would drop my hands if I was going to run this, or drop my shoulders if I was going to run that," Williams said. "It was a whole different ballgame. They made college football look like the amateur hour."
By the end of the season, though, Williams was a lot more polished and playing with more confidence. He was getting better releases off the line of scrimmage from cornerbacks who were trying to jam him. He was better at going in and coming out of breaks on pass routes.
But even as he became more of a factor in games, Williams acknowledged that fatigue set in. Through his last season at Oregon, scouting combines and a rookie year, he had played almost two straight seasons. Now, he has a chance to regroup and make a difference.
"The season started to become a little grind, and it started to wear me down," Williams said. "It helped because we had a good season, but we didn't get where we wanted to go. I have a season under my belt, and I learned the ropes from some really good players. Now, I have to use what they taught me to take another step."
Read Mike Preston's Ravens Central blog at www.baltimoresun.com/ravenscentral.