Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has been typically direct when assessing what's at stake for third-year running back Ryan Williams as the team approaches its third game of the 2013 preseason.
Around the NFC West: Aug. 23, 2013
"Every evaluation is critical for him now," Arians told reporters. "He's missed so much that I want to see how he does in practice before I put him in a game. Hopefully, he’ll do as well as I think he will and be able to get out there and play full speed and get tackled."
Williams, the Cardinals' second-round choice in 2010, has played in just five games over his first two regular seasons. Knee and shoulder injuries were to blame. Related knee trouble sidelined him for long stretches of training camp. The team expects Williams to play against San Diego on Saturday night, but Williams' availability is very much a day-to-day situation.
The organization is rooting for him.
General manager Steve Keim, one of the people most excited about Williams' potential before the 2010 draft, recently delivered what Williams called a pep talk.
When I was at Cardinals camp, I noticed that Williams' locker was next to the locker for receiver Larry Fitzgerald. One day, Williams sat at his locker and waited while Fitzgerald conducted an interview at the next stall. The rest of the locker room had cleared out. Williams was waiting for Fitzgerald to finish so the two could grab lunch together.
A player could do worse than having the GM and the team's most iconic player in his corner. At this point, though, there can be no substitute for performance. Williams must play. He must play well. He must remain healthy enough to practice and play again. Time is running out.