Playing football is a welcomed respite for many players, but returning to the field has taken on a different perspective for Ravens tight end Maxx Williams after sitting out the final 12 games of last season because of a serious knee injury.
"It just gave me a whole new mindset on almost life," he said after Friday's practice at the team's training facility in Owings Mills. "It showed how fast something can get taken from you and the things you have to do to play again. It gave me a new appreciation for the game that I didn't know that I had. I still love the game just as much, and I'm just trying to make the most of it now."
Williams' return becomes more significant after Crockett Gillmore sustained what appeared to be a serious knee injury on Friday. While attempting to catch a pass from backup quarterback Dustin Vaughan, Gillmore grabbed his right knee and fell to the turf. He limped off the field, slammed his helmet, and talked with head trainer Mark Smith before limping into the locker room.
Coach John Harbaugh did not have any information on the extent of Gillmore's injury. "I didn't even see it," he said. "No one said anything to me. He made it through most of the practice. So I don't really know. I haven't heard anything yet."
If Gillmore is out for an extended period of time, he will be the third tight end lost. Dennis Pitta was released in June after fracturing his right hip for the third time in four years, and Darren Waller must serve a year-long suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Benjamin Watson and Williams are coming back from injuries, and Ryan Malleck and Vince Mayle are unproven commodities. Nick Boyle is the only tight end without any question marks, but Williams said the group is keeping the focus internally.
"It's back to us – kind of like how it was during my rookie year," he said. "Now we still have Ben. We've just got to go out there and keep doing what we do."
Williams was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 7 after suffering what was initially described as cartilage damage in his knee. Harbaugh said on May 25 that Williams underwent an operation that no other football player has ever had without offering any more details.
Asked to provide some clarity on the procedure, Williams replied, "The way I describe it and the only way I know is that I'm the first guy in the league to get it. It's all scientific. They used big words and stuff, and I didn't go to med school. I just know that it's something I had to go through. I'm excited to get back out there and prove that I can still play."
The 6-foot-4, 257-pound Williams does not seem to be totally recovered yet as there have been times when he has not launched into a full stride. But he said he is eager to make good on the Ravens' investment of the second-round pick in the 2015 draft in the University of Minnesota product.
"Hey, man, it's a new year. That's the way I'm looking at it," he said. "Last year was not the way I wanted it to go. Had to get surgery. So it's a whole new year. I'm excited to be back out here with everyone. I want to make some plays during camp and have some fun."
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